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Evidence from sexual assault cases will be kept longer

Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation Wednesday requiring forensic evidence from sexual assault and rape cases to be preserved for at least 15 years.

The bill requires police to keep forensic evidence for a minimum of 15 years, which is the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual assault and rape, the governor’s office said.

In the past, police only had to keep the forensic evidence for six months, unless a victim petitioned to have it preserved every six months, officials said.

“Removing 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,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said in a statement. “Preserving this type of evidence could make all the difference in convicting defendants on trial for sexual assault or rape.”

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The new law also requires that any evidence that police departments currently have in their possession be kept until the statute of limitations for each case ends.

The legislation also requires hospitals to inform sexual assault and rape victims in writing that evidence will be preserved for at least 15 years.

A new set of regulations regarding proper preservation of evidence and chain-of-custody protocol will be created by the State Police Crime Laboratory, the bill states.

“Trauma can have a devastating effect on a person’s health and well-being. 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,” the governor said in a statement.


Olivia Quintana can be reached at olivia.quintana@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @oliviasquintana.