SB 916 Continues Senator Leyva’s Work and Advocacy on Sexual Assault Reform
SACRAMENTO – After earning unanimous support in the Legislature, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 916 by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), which will empower survivors with critical information following a sexual assault. By providing them with this information, survivors will be able to make informed decisions regarding steps they wish to take, or not, in the post-assault process.
“Ever since I authored now enacted legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for rape and related crimes in 2016, I have continued to spearhead vital legislation that will further empower survivors of rape and sexual assault in California,” Senator Leyva said. “SB 916 is a logical next step, as it ensures that survivors receive clear information regarding what their rights are in a concise and understandable manner. I thank Governor Newsom, legislators on both sides of the aisle, bill sponsor Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, and the many supporters for standing alongside survivors of sexual assault and supporting SB 916.”
“Sexual assault survivors have a right to know what their options are in the aftermath of these horrific crimes,” said District Attorney O’Malley. “I am grateful to Senator Leyva for introducing this bill and moving it forward. The Senator has been a vigilant advocate for the rights of women and particularly for the rights and empowerment of victims of sexual assault crimes. I was proud to sponsor SB 916 and have worked with Senator Leyva once again to bring justice and respect to victims and survivors of interpersonal violence.”
Following a sexual assault, survivors in California may choose to undergo a forensic medical examination to collect evidence retained in a sexual assault kit. Unfortunately, far too many kits have historically remained untested in police evidence rooms. California law already requires law enforcement to collect the kits, log the kit into the newly created Department of Justice SAFE-T system, submit the kit for testing within 20 days, and the crime lab must test the kit within 120 days. The victim of the sexual assault crime can track the progress of the forensic kit through a private portal in SAFE-T. California law (Chapter 692, Statutes of 2017) additionally indicates that the law enforcement agency shall also inform the survivor of the status of the DNA testing of the rape kit evidence or other crime scene evidence from the survivor’s case.
California Penal Code Section 680.2 mandates that all local law enforcement agencies develop a card that explains in clear language the rights of sexual assault survivors, and makes this card accessible to each provider in its jurisdiction responsible for medical evidentiary or physical examinations arising out of sexual assault. SB 916 will update California law to require that survivors—via the card—be made aware that they cannot be compelled to testify in court. This now-signed measure will also give survivors the right to be able to access the Department of Justice SAFE-T portal to track the status of their own forensic kit.
During its legislative journey, SB 916 was supported by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), Leda Health, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, and Prosecutors Alliance California.