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Law Targets Evidence in Sex Assaults

Victims must be notified by law enforcement agencies if they intend to destroy rape kits before the 10-year statute of limitations runs out.

September 27, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

A bill requiring law enforcement agencies to notify sexual attack victims before biological evidence is destroyed was signed into law Friday by Gov. Gray Davis.

The legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) after revelations last year that the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments lost or destroyed thousands of rape kits before the 10-year statute of limitations had run out.

The bill also requires law enforcement agencies to notify victims if they have decided against analyzing or using the biological evidence. Proponents said that will allow victims to pressure law enforcement officials to pursue prosecutions when officials have decided not to.

"It's such an important bill because ... it's going to allow rape victims to know where their rape kit is and whether or not it's being tested," said Patti Giggans, executive director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. "And this is going to go so far into building more confidence into the criminal justice system by the public."

The new law was praised by prosecutors. "This legislation will greatly increase the use of DNA technology to solve the very serious crimes of sexual assault," Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said in a statement.

The bill was one of several sex-crime measures signed Friday by the governor.

Another gives school district police departments the authority that other law enforcement agencies now have to release to the public information about sex offenders registered in the state's Megan's Law database.

Another measure adds the California Highway Patrol to the list of law enforcement agencies that must notify school districts when an employee has been arrested for a sex offense or for using controlled substances.

Finally, other new laws require people convicted of transporting or distributing child pornography to register as sex offenders and prohibit sex offenders from being licensed as physicians or surgeons.

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