PA 15-207—sHB 6498

Public Safety and Security Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING EVIDENCE IN SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES

SUMMARY: This act makes various changes affecting evidence in sexual assault cases and establishes deadlines for transferring and processing sexual assault evidence police obtain from health care facilities that collect such evidence.

If an accused seeks to introduce evidence of a victim's sexual conduct in a sexual assault case, the act requires the hearing on the motion to be held in camera (i. e. , in private), rather than allowing the court to grant a motion to hold an in camera hearing at the request of either party. By law, evidence of a victim's sexual conduct in these cases is admissible only in certain limited circumstances (see BACKGROUND).

The act requires motions, supporting documents, and related court documents concerning these hearings to be sealed and allows them to be unsealed only if the court rules that the evidence is admissible and the case goes to trial.

If the state discloses any such evidence, the act limits further disclosure of it by the defense counsel, the defendant, or agent of either.

The act also makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

MOTION ON ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE IN SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES

Under the act, any motion and supporting documents seeking to admit evidence of a victim's sexual conduct must be filed under seal. These documents may be unsealed only if the court rules that the evidence is admissible and the case proceeds to trial. If the court determines that only part of the evidence is admissible, only the pertinent part of the motion or documents may be unsealed. The court must maintain these documents under seal for delivery to the Appellate Court if the case is appealed.

The act sets similar requirements for the court regarding transcripts, records, and recordings of proceedings on these hearings. The court must seal them, and it may unseal them only if it rules that the evidence in the document or recording is admissible and the case proceeds to trial. If the court determines that only part of the evidence is admissible, it may unseal only the related portion of the document or recording.

The act specifically allows courts to set other terms and conditions applicable to such evidence of a victim's sexual conduct. For evidence disclosed by the state, the act prohibits the defendant, defense counsel, or agent of the defendant or defense counsel from further disclosing the evidence to anyone, except people employed by the attorney in connection with the case investigation or defense, without the prior approval of the prosecutor or the court.

DEADLINES FOR PROCESSING AND TRANSFERRING SEXUAL ASSAULT EVIDENCE

By law, when a health care facility collects sexual assault evidence, it must “contact” a police department (in effect, provide the evidence to the police department), which must transfer the evidence to the state Division of Scientific Services or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory (see BACKGROUND). Prior law required the agency that received the evidence to hold it for 60 days, except that if the victim reported the assault to the police, the agency had to analyze the evidence at the request of the police department that transferred it.

The act adds transfer and processing deadlines for police departments and the division. Specifically, it requires a police department that receives sexual assault evidence from a health care facility to transfer the evidence to the Division of Scientific Services or the FBI within 10 days after the health care facility collects it.

If the evidence is transferred to the division, the act requires the division to analyze it within 60 days after it is collected, unless the victim chose to remain anonymous and not report the assault to the police at the time the evidence was collected, in which case the division must hold the evidence for at least five years after the collection. If the victim reports the assault to the police department after the evidence is collected, the department must notify the division of the report no later than five days after the victim files it, and the division must analyze the evidence no later than 60 days after getting the notification. As under existing law, the act requires the agency to hold any evidence received and analyzed until the end of any criminal proceedings.

Under the act, a department's failure to transfer the evidence or the division's failure to process it within the deadlines does not affect the admissibility of the evidence in any suit, action, or proceeding if the evidence is otherwise admissible.

BACKGROUND

Evidence of Victim's Sexual Conduct in Sexual Assault Cases

The law limits when evidence of a victim's sexual conduct is admissible in most sexual assault cases. The evidence is admissible only when its value as proof outweighs its prejudicial effect on the victim and the evidence is:

1. of sexual conduct with persons other than the accused which is offered by the accused on the issue of (a) whether the accused was the source of semen, disease, pregnancy, or injury or (b) the victim's credibility, if the victim testified on direct examination about his or her sexual conduct;

2. of sexual conduct with the accused, offered by the accused on the issue of the victim's consent, when consent is raised as a defense; or

3. otherwise so relevant and material to a central issue that barring its admission would violate the accused's constitutional rights.

The evidence may be admitted only after the court hears a motion to offer such evidence that contains an offer of proof.

Sexual Assault Kits

By law, the Commission on the Standardization of the Collection of Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations must design a sexual assault evidence collection kit, which must include instructions on the proper use of the kit, standardized reporting forms, standardized tests to be performed if the victim of the assault consents, and standardized receptacles for collecting and preserving the evidence. The commission must provide the kits to all health care facilities in the state that perform evidence collection examinations (CGS 19a-112a(c)).

Division of Scientific Services

The Division of Scientific Services is within the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. It operates three laboratories: a toxicology and controlled substances laboratory, a forensic science laboratory, and a computer crime and electronics laboratory.

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