New Jersey Attorney General Revises Procedures For Retaining Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence; New Directive Will Eliminate Current “90-Day Hold” Minimum, Consistent with Position Advanced by NJCASA

Trenton — The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety announced today that, in response to a recent survey conducted of local evidence retention policies and practices, it is issuing a new Directive that significantly expands the current minimum 90-day timeline for the retention of evidence, including DNA evidence, from sexual assault medical examinations.

The new policy directs that the destruction of evidence will only be authorized after providing the victim with a minimum of five (5) years within which to decide whether to report the crime and release the evidence to law enforcement. The changes will be implemented by amending both the Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault and the Attorney General Guidelines for the Retention of Evidence.

In March 2014, NJCASA sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office requesting an evaluation of the existing policy and urging amendments be made to be consistent with the other strong, survivor-centered policies for which New Jersey is known. “The Attorney General and the Department of Law and Public Safety should be commended for swiftly taking this decisive, informed step to protect the rights of sexual assault victims by ensuring that no prosecution of a sex offender is foreclosed because relevant evidence was destroyed,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA). “NJCASA has long believed that retaining evidence beyond 90 days is in the best interests of both victims and law enforcement.”

This new policy directive is survivor-centered...and sends a clear message that in our state, sexual assault is no less important than other heinous crimes.

“For all other crimes in New Jersey without a statute of limitations, there is no limit on the retention of evidence. This new policy directive is survivor-centered, consistent with professional best practices, and sends a clear message that in our state, sexual assault is no less important than other heinous crimes,” Teffenhart added.

NJCASA is the statewide advocacy and capacity building organization that represents the twenty-one county-based rape crisis centers, and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.