Law Enforcement Must Retain Rape Kit Evidence for Five (5) Years
Until recently, victim’s of sexual assault in New Jersey were required ninety (90) days to decide whether or not to participate in the investigation and charging of the perpetrator. That is because after the sexual assault, the victim participated in a SANE examination. A “Rape Kit” is used to collect evidence, including DNA. The contents of the Rape Kit were only required to be preserved by New Jersey law enforcement for a period of ninety (90) days. During that time, if the victim did not decide to pursue prosecution, the evidence was destroyed. In 2012, there were nearly 1,000 (969) rapes and 69 attempted rapes. Those victims are faced with many difficult choices when deciding whether to pursue criminal action. Speaking with investigators, being interviewed, giving statements, disclosing their experiences to strangers, psychological counseling, testifying before a Grand Jury and testifying at a trial are just some of the potential requirements of proceeding with charges against an alleged attacker.
New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman issued a directive to all New Jersey law enforcement officers that requires that all Rape Kit evidence is to be preserved and maintained for not less than five (5) years. This new directive now allows victims of sexual assault to take more time to weigh their options and make a decision. As Criminal Defense Attorneys in Burlington County, being aware of the current legal standards for the preservation of evidence is critical. Failure to comply with the Attorney General’s directive could lead to a dismissal of criminal charges, depending on the circumstances, based on the spoliation of evidence.