Boerner Horvath’s Sexual Assault Victim Amnesty Bill Passes the Assembly
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Boerner Horvath’s bill establishing an amnesty clause to encourage victims and witnesses of sexual assault to testify in court was passed off the California State Assembly floor with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 73 votes, and is now headed to the Senate.
AB 1927 by Assemblymember Boerner Horvath would provide immunity to victims and witnesses of sexual assault from the consequences of alcohol or drug use at the time of the victimization. Studies estimate that half of sexual assault victims were consuming alcohol at the time of the incident. Federal reports on campus sexual assault have found that liability for illegal consumption of alcohol or drugs is a common factor in why victims choose not to report their assault. Higher education institutions nationwide, including the University of California, have already implemented amnesty clauses that provide immunity from the consequences of drug and alcohol use to encourage reporting.
“We know we already have a huge problem with the underreporting of sexual assault incidents,” said Assembylmember Boerner Horvath. “It’s hard enough as it is for victims to make the tough decision to come forward and describe their experience to close loved ones. The last thing we should be doing as a state is adding the fear of prosecution to their burden. It’s time we extend this amnesty to all sexual assault victims and witnesses in California so that we can remove this deterrent and pursue justice for these victims.
In order to receive immunity victims must go through a process that requires them to be compelled to testify in court. This process unnecessarily increases trauma to the victim by requiring them to be subpoenaed in front of a judge to receive immunity for offenses unrelated to the sexual assault.
“This bill provides legal protections to sexual assault survivors, so they are not treated like criminals when they come forward to assist in holding their abusers accountable,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, the sponsor of the bill. “The last thing we want is for the criminal justice system to re-victimize people who bravely come
forward to report crime. Drugs and alcohol are often used by predators to facilitate their crime but then used against victims to discourage them from reporting.”
Evidence shows that the rate of sexual violence increases during states of emergency, including natural disasters and health crises. Demand for services at rape crisis centers has increased since the COVID-19 shutdown. It is more important than ever to support victims of sexual assault as they seek justice from our criminal justice system. Providing victims with this amnesty will help law enforcement prosecute the perpetrators of sexual assault and will increase overall public safety. AB 1927 will be heard next in the Senate Public Safety Committee.