Extended preservation of sexual assault forensic evidence considered

Individuals who have undergone a forensic examination following a reported sexual assault could request that law enforcement preserve that forensic evidence for an additional 20 years under a bill considered Jan. 26 by the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh

LB870, introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, would require law enforcement to notify the individual, no later than 60 days prior to the end of the statutorily required retention period for such evidence, of its intended destruction or disposal.

Currently, law enforcement is required to preserve sexual assault forensic evidence for 20 years. Under the bill, a victim could request the preservation of their evidence for an additional 20 years.

“My goal in this is to give victims more information while doing it in a way that does not put them at further harm or risk,” Cavanaugh said.

The bill also would require law enforcement to notify the victim if there is a change in the status of their case, including if the case has been closed or reopened.

Erin Feichtinger testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Women’s Fund of Omaha. Allowing individuals to have power over their sexual assault evidence will give them control over their healing journey, she said.

“When survivors feel safe and supported throughout their interaction with medical and legal processes, they are more likely to report their assaults and Nebraska is more likely to hold perpetrators accountable while achieving safety for our communities,” Feichtinger said.

Also supporting the measure was Melanie Kirk, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. Allowing evidence to be preserved longer could provide reassurance to survivors who may need additional time to heal after an assault, Kirk said.

No one testified in opposition to LB870 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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