SACRAMENTO — AB 1927, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill establishing an amnesty clause to encourage victims and witnesses of sexual assault to testify in court was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
AB 1927 provides 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.
“The signing of AB 1927 sends a strong message to the thousands of victims of sexual assault who remained silent – we hear you, we understand your fears, and your stories are valid,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “For too long, our judicial system has placed unnecessary burdens on victims seeking justice.”
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.
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.
“Today, California passed a landmark law that lets victims of sexual assault know they will be protected and their dignity preserved when they come forward to report a crime and testify in court,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, the bill's sponsor. “This new law removes another hurdle that contributes to the underreporting of sexual assault by victims who fear exposing themselves to criminal liability for drug or alcohol use, which is often used by a perpetrator to commit the crime against them. I want to thank Assemblymember Boerner Horvath for fighting on behalf of thousands of sexual assault victims who suffer in silence.”
“Victims of sexual assault should never be made to feel like they are the ones being tried for a crime in order to testify against their perpetrators,” said Harriett Salarno, Chair of Crimes Victims United of California (CVUC). “It's important to signal to victims that they don't need to be fearful of participating in the judicial system. The signing of AB 1927 into law brings us closer to a California where all victims of violent crime can be heard and seek the justice they are due.”
Under this new law, communities will become safer as more perpetrators are held accountable for crimes and brought to justice. AB 1927 takes effect on January 1st, 2021.