Boerner Horvath’s Bill to Make it Safe for Sexual Assault Survivors to Testify in Court Headed to Governor’s Desk

Sunday, August 30, 2020

 

   

 

SACRAMENTO — Today, AB 1927, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill establishing an amnesty clause to encourage victims and witnesses of sexual assault to testify in court passed the Assembly Floor on a bipartisan 75-0 concurrence vote.

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.

“Victims of sexual assault who were under the influence of alcohol and drugs during the abuse are more reluctant to testify against their assailants for fear of personal prosecution,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “This fear should not be the reason to stop them from getting the justice they deserve. AB 1927 will provide assault survivors with a safe space to provide testimony before a judge without incriminating them for their behavior.”

Under current law, victims must go through a process that requires them to be compelled to testify in court before amnesty for alcohol or drug charges 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.

“On behalf of Crime Victims United of California (CVUC), I am pleased to support AB 1927,” said Harriet Salarno, Chair of the CVUC. “This bill will remedy the underreporting of sexual assault cases by creating a statutory vehicle by which California’s criminal justice system can provide victims and witnesses of sexual assault relief from potential criminal liability from self-incriminating testimony about their minor drug and alcohol-related offenses as it relates to the sexual assault case.

AB 1927 limits liability for drug-related or alcohol crimes only in the limited circumstance where the victim or witness testified in a sexual assault prosecution, and that the required testimony was incriminating. It does not prohibit the accused from introducing evidence that the accuser was under the influence.

While many colleges and universities have already adopted this practice, AB 1927 would expand the amnesty clause to all victims of sexual assault. Every victim deserves to come forward without fear of being liable for minor violations of underage drinking or drug use.

The bill is headed to the Governor’s Desk to receive his signature.