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HB 0255 - Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021; enact

Tracking Level: Monitor
Sponsor: Scott Holcomb (D)
Last Action: 5/6/2021 - Effective Date 2021-07-01
House Committee: Judiciary - Non-Civil
Senate Committee: Public Safety
Assigned To:
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Staff Analysis of the Legislation

HB 255 creates the 'Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021' and establishes a sexual assault protocol committee that is mandated to submit an annual certification of compliance to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The committee must also notify the governor, lieutenant governor, state speaker of the House, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia of any noncompliant judicial circuits. The bill additionally amends language to declare that it is a victim's right not to immediately report an alleged sexual assault and that the law enforcement agency with proper jurisdiction shall maintain certain physical evidence for at least 12 months from the date of collection.  

Further, this bill creates a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system for the use of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The system will track the location and status of sexual assault kits as they move through the criminal justice process, designate the kits as unreported or reported, allow law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, medical facilities that perform sexual assault forensic examinations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and other entities with custody of sexual assault kits to update and track the status of the kit, allow victims of sexual assault to anonymously track the status of their kits, and use technology to allow continuous access. This system may use a phased implementation process, but all entities having custody of kits must fully participate in the system by one year from the effective date of the bill.  

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council shall also be required to submit a status report on the launch of the system and its implementation plan to both the appropriate legislative committees and the Governor by January 1, 2022. Additional reports on the status of the sexual assault kit tracking system shall be submitted twice a year and include certain data, such as the total number of kits used to conduct forensic medical examinations, the number of sexual assault kits reported to law enforcement, the average time that law enforcement collects reported sexual assault kits, the number of kits created for reported cases that advance for forensic testing, the number of kits that complete forensic testing, the number of sexual assault kits not reported to law enforcement, and the jurisdictions of which kits have not been submitted to the Division of Forensic Services of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Public agencies, public entities, and hospitals providing services to victims of sexual assault will not be liable for civil damages due to a release of information or failure to release information related to the sexual assault kit tracking system, with the exception of gross negligence.  

Furthermore, HB 255 requires each law enforcement agency in the state to enter required information into the FBI's national database of the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program for any investigations of an allegation of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated assault with intent to rape, in which the alleged perpetrator is unrelated to the victim or is known to be a serial sexual offender. This provision applies retroactively to all pending investigations that meet the listed criteria, with the exception of offenses involving a victim between the ages of 14 and 16 and an alleged offender of 18 years old or younger, so long as the alleged offender is not more than four years older than the victim. Alleged perpetrators may petition a court to remove his or her collected information from the databases, and the court is to order a hearing consider all evidence introducted by the petitioner, the investigating law enforcement agency, and other parties. 

Bill Summary from the State Site - Click for the State Summary Page / Click for Current Full Text