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EVAWI > Resources > Forensic Compliance > Sample Legislation

Forensic Compliance Resources

Note:  The information on this website is designed to:  (a) communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and (b) offer recommended practices for implementation.  The goal is to highlight examples of communities striving to achieve a higher standard of the “spirit of the law,” rather than simply meeting the “letter of the law” for VAWA forensic compliance.  It is critically important that readers consult state laws and regulations, as well as local policies and protocols, because they may have additional requirements beyond those included in VAWA 2005 and VAWA 2013.  For more information specific to your state or territory, contact the STOP Grant Administrator or coalition of advocacy organizations providing services for sexual assault victims.  A listing is available from the website for the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. 
 
Elements of Model Legislation

Many states have passed legislation to address forensic compliance, including laws outlining the payment mechanism for Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (SAFEs). A few examples are cited below, which highlight some key elements of comprehensive laws:

1) Comprehensive laws address a broad range of critical issues, including who pays for exams and what treatment, medications, and other services (i.e. follow up medical or psychological care) are covered. Ideally, laws can also provide guidance on other critical issues such as:

  • State and national protocols for medical forensic examinations
  • State specific guidelines for investigation and collection of evidence
  • Evidence storage location
  • Timelines for destruction

2) It is especially helpful when such laws are written to be clear and concise, so they are easy for practitioners to implement.

3) It is also helpful for such laws to include a clear, affirmative statement that victims are not required to report and/or cooperate with law enforcement in order to have the exam costs covered.

Note: Thanks to Charlene Whitman for her assistance with the material on this page. She serves as an Associate Attorney Advisor at AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women

Texas Law

As of June 19, 2009 sexual assault survivors in Texas have a statutory right to a sexual assault forensic exam without first making a law enforcement report. The Non-Report Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (NRSAFE) Program was created by HB 2626 and became law in June, 2009. The NRSAFE program is described on the website for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which stores the evidence for victims who have not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice process. The evidence is stored for a period of two years, and then destroyed. The website also provides a number of instructional documents and forms, which are provided on the Non-Reported Sexual Assault Evidence Program page of the agency’s website. A more recent addition to the Texas law (HB 2966) enhances confidentiality protections for victims.

Maine Law

A number of states have addressed the issue of forensic compliance legislatively. One rather comprehensive example is Maine’s law, which enacts the recommendations of a commission specifically tasked with designing a process for sexual assault medical forensic exams. Key provisions outline the payment process and protections for victim privacy, as well as evidence collection and storage procedures when the victim has and has not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice process.

Connecticut Law

With respect to payment for sexual assault medical forensic exams (SAFEs), one example of a rather comprehensive law is Connecticut. While many specific aspects of forensic compliance are covered in the statute, it also specifically references Technical Guidelines that provide more detailed information to guide the process of implementation. These guidelines are referred to in the statute as the “Connecticut Technical Guidelines for Health Care Response to Victims of Sexual Assault, including the Interim Sexual Assault Toxicology Screen Protocol.” The law also explicitly states that these guidelines will be updated “from time to time” and that they “will be incorporated in regulations adopted in accordance with” the statute. This approach reflects an excellent balance between the general guidance provided in state statute – and the more detailed information in the technical guidelines that can be used to direct practical implementation.

Illinois Law

Yet another example of a rather comprehensive law is seen in Illinois. The statute provides detailed information regarding a wide range of issues, yet is clear and concise. For example, the procedure for payment is outlined in a straightforward way to make it easier for practitioners to follow.

Virginia Executive Order

Although not a law, the state of Virginia has an Executive Order (92) directing the state crime laboratory to accept and store physical evidence that is collected from health care providers in cases of sexual assault, for victims who have not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice system. The state crime laboratory has also developed instructions and consent form for evidence storage in these cases.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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