New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin this week issued a new, statewide law enforcement directive that aims to help preserve DNA evidence collected in sexual assault cases.
“We recognize that sexual assault is one of the most traumatic events an individual may experience and it is imperative that we preserve survivors’ right to pursue justice at a time when they feel ready,” said Platkin.
The directive intends to ensure sexual assault survivors have access to medical, investigative, and supportive services they need.
Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2023-1 will require longer retention of evidence, including DNA evidence, from sexual assault medical examinations not processed by a lab at the survivors request.
The retention period will be expanded to 20 years from the current five-year period.
Additionally, the new rule establishes new statewide procedures and guidelines for tracking, storing, and determining how and when such evidence is submitted for testing. It will limit circumstances in which law enforcement can decline to submit evidence for testing in cases where a survivor consented to it.
Allow for Through Investigations
The directive will prohibit law enforcement officers and prosecutors from declining to submit evidence for testing strictly because they believe the sexual act was consensual, they have no suspects, or the survivor filed a complaint against a current or former spouse or partner.
“The standards and procedures established in this directive ensure that if or when that time comes—whether it’s immediately after an assault or years down the road—their cases will be vigorously investigated by law enforcement and their opportunity to hold perpetrators accountable will not be foreclosed because evidence is no longer viable or has been destroyed,” Platkin added.
Gov. Phil Murphy positioned the new rule as an extension of the his administration’s commitment to supporting survivors of sexual assault.
Furthering the Murphy Administration’s Efforts
“The services enforced in this measure are essential in the safety and well-being of survivors, while also supporting law enforcement’s efforts in identifying perpetrators,” Murphy said. “There is no room in our state for violence in any form, and we will continue to collaborate with Attorney General Platkin to further these values.”
The standards in the directive were collaboratively created with the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA), which was established by Platkin in September 2022.
VIVA was created to coordinate and advance the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) victim-centered strategy by bringing together victim-related and violence intervention and prevention services currently dispersed throughout the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Additionally, it was designed to play a lead role with respect to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, centralizing the Department’s trauma-informed practices and advancing policies on behalf of individuals and communities impacted by violence.