SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill establishing an amnesty clause to encourage victims and witnesses of sexual assault to testify in court once again received bipartisan support with a 7-0 vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
AB 1927 would provide immunity for victims and witnesses of sexual assault from the consequences of illegal alcohol or drug use occurring at the time of their alleged assault. Higher education institutions nationwide, including the University of California, have already implemented such amnesty clauses on their campuses. Under current law, victims must go through a process that requires them to be compelled to testify in court before it can be granted. This process unnecessarily increases trauma to the victim by requiring them to appear in front of a judge for offenses unrelated to the sexual assault.
“We all know too well that sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in America. Many victims and survivors do not come forward for fear of retaliation, even fear of being blamed for the assault,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “This bill will empower them to report the abuse without fear of prosecution. Today’s vote brings us closer to extending the same amnesty already provided on college campuses to sexual assault victims and witnesses throughout California."
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 2018 Uniform Crime Reporting, California had more than 15,000 reported forcible rapes – the highest number in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that this problem is particularly prevalent among college-age students - approximately 80 percent of sexual assaults against college students, and 67 percent of non-students, go unreported.
“The last thing we want is for the criminal justice system to re-victimize people who bravely come forward to report crimes,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, the bill’s sponsor. “We can’t continue to have a system which treats victims like criminals for using the very same drugs or alcohol which often are fueling their abusers’ crimes.
AB 1927 will be heard next on the floor of the Senate.