New Law Changes Sexual Assault Investigations

Published: Oct 07, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Sex Crimes

This summer, Governor Rauner signed a bill that will overhaul how Illinois authorities handle suspected cases of sexual assault. Going into effect on January 1, 2017, Senate Bill 3096 puts into effect the reforms proposed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan after a 2015 investigative report found that 70% of rape cases reported in Southern Illinois never made it to court.

As Senate Bill 3096 was signed into law, Madigan released a statement: “Sexual assault is a devastating crime that is rarely reported to law enforcement. Our working group spent more than a year taking a comprehensive look at why and how our criminal justice system can better respond, investigate and support survivors.”

Rape is a serious problem in Illinois and across the nation. One in five women and one in 33 men experienced an attempted or completed rape at one point in their lives, and the number of criminal convictions arising out of these rapes is disproportionately low. As the new law aims to make the prosecution of rape cases easier, will the rights of the accused be affected?

What Reforms Does the New Law Put in Place?

Governor Rauner stated that: “as a state, we must do everything within our power to ensure victims are supported and that their aggressors are quickly brought to justice.” To further this goal, Senate Bill 3096 requires that:

  • The authorities will put in place evidenced-based, victim-centered policies regulating the response to sexual assault reports
  • The police will make a written report of every alleged sexual assault, regardless of who is reporting it. If a third party reports the assault, he or she must have the victim’s permission and provide law enforcement with contact information
  • Police investigators, first-responders, and dispatchers will undergo victim sensitivity training
  • Illinois State Police will update victims on the status of their rape kit testing unless releasing the information will compromise the investigation
  • Rape victims will have up to five years to consent to provide the authorities with forensic evidence after the assault (previously, the victims had only 14 days to do so)
  • Hospitals are no longer allowed to destroy the victim’s forensic evidence (rape kit) after the 14 day period has lapsed. Instead, the hospital must forward the kit to the police, who will have 10 days to get it to the lab for analysis.

Will the New Law Affect the Rights of the Accused?

The requirement regarding the preservation of rape kits in sexual assault investigations is the most serious change because it will give prosecutors more evidence to use in their Illinois sex crimes cases against suspected perpetrators. Previously, prosecutors would sometimes find that the forensic evidence provided by the victim was either destroyed or had never been analyzed by the crime lab. This provision will surely increase the number of rape cases that prosecutors are able to build, but it does not directly violate the accused’s right to a fair trial.

Indeed, the defendant’s attorney may still request the suppression of the victim’s forensic evidence where there is proof that the forensic samples were improperly collected, stored, or analyzed. With state crime labs scrambling to work through a decade-long backlog in analyzing thousands of rape kits, there are bound to be mishaps.

Consult With A Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re facing rape charges, you will receive little sympathy. The people of Illinois have committed to “stand with the victims of these malicious crimes,” as Governor Rauner recently stated. Despite a prosecutor’s duty of proving the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt, you will find that it is the victim who is often given the benefit of the doubt.

This is why you need a skilled and experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer by your side to fight for your rights. To learn more about how to defend against sexual assault charges, call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation.