Governor Charlie Baker today signed\u00a0H. 4364,\u00a0An Act relative to the preservation of evidence for victims of rape and sexual assault, to ensure that potentially crucial forensic evidence is preserved and retained for at least as long as the 15 year statute of limitations for sexual assault and rape.\u00a0 At a signing ceremony and press conference led by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito in the State House, members of the Baker-Polito Administration, legislators, members of the non-profit organization RISE and advocates celebrated passage of this legislation and significant progress for survivors of sexual assault and rape who have faced significant challenges and trauma from the burdens of the prior policies of our criminal justice system.\u00a0\n\n\u201cTrauma can have a devastating effect on a person\u2019s health and well-being.\u00a0 A survivor of sexual assault or rape should not be burdened with a short timeframe and constant reminders from our criminal justice system, and I am pleased this new law will allow survivors to focus on healing,\u201d\u00a0said Governor Charlie Baker.\u00a0\u201cExtending the retention period for evidence to match the statute of limitations is a commonsense change that will help survivors seek justice when they are ready to pursue a criminal justice response.\u201d\n\n\u201cRemoving the burden from the victim to keep evidence from being destroyed is a very important step for our criminal justice system, and most of all, for the well-being of survivors of sexual assault and rape,\u201d\u00a0said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Chair of the Governor\u2019s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.\u00a0\u201cWe want to thank our colleagues in the legislature for collaborating on this legislation because preserving this type of evidence could make all the difference in convicting defendants on trial for sexual assault or rape.\u201d\n\nThe new law requires governmental entities, such as local police departments, to retain forensic evidence obtained through the investigation of a sexual assault or rape for a minimum of fifteen years, which is the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual assault and rape. Previously, such evidence was only required to be retained for a period of six months unless victims petitioned every six months to have it preserved.\n\n\u201cIn a criminal prosecution there are few better ways to achieve a conviction than by presenting conclusive forensic evidence linking the defendant to the crime,\u201d\u00a0said Public Safety and Security Secretary Daniel Bennett.\u00a0\u201cBy extending the period that such evidence must be kept we are improving our ability to bring criminals who have committed such heinous crimes to justice.\u201d\n\n\u201cSomeone who has experienced sexual violence needs time to heal. \u00a0It is incumbent on us to support survivors by ensuring that they have the time they need to seek justice,\u201d\u00a0said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.\u00a0\u201cWith this legislation, we take a big step forward in ensuring that the justice system works.\u201d\n\n\u201cWith the National dialogue around sexual assault, I am pleased to see Massachusetts taking the lead in this small but important step in protecting the rights of survivors,\u201d\u00a0said Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier.\n\n\u201cSexual assault is one of the most traumatizing and emotionally devastating experiences an individual can go through,\u201dsaid State Senator Cynthia Creem. \u201cWe\u2019ve extended the time period that evidence must be kept so that survivors don\u2019t have to revisit the assault every six months.\u201d\u00a0\n\n\u201cWe are thankful for Governor Baker and statehouse legislators for enacting this bill preventing the destruction of critical evidence for sexual assault survivors for the duration of time they have to file charges \u2013 15 years,\u201d\u00a0said Amanda Nguyen, President and Founder of Rise.\n\nAdditional elements of the new law:\n\nRequires hospitals to inform survivors that sexual assault testing kits will be retained for a minimum of fifteen years;\n\tStipulates that any evidence currently in the possession of a police department or other governmental entity be retained for the remainder of the statute of limitations for each case; and\n\tTo ensure that forensic evidence is properly preserved, requires the State Police Crime Laboratory to promulgate regulations regarding minimum standards for evidence retention and chain-of-custody protocol.\u00a0\nRise has already passed a federal Sexual Assault Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by the President on October 7, 2016 and introduced legislation in California, Oregon and New York.