RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Victims of sexual assault will soon have a better chance of making sure their attacker is caught.
North Carolina House Bill 674 expands the list of assault crimes that require a DNA sample if someone is convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Our state is taking those steps to prevent another backlog of harm that is being done to victims,” said Lauren Schwartz, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and the Director of Sexual Assault Services with InterAct of Wake County.
The bill aims to not only help solve crimes but help prevent future assaults.
“When you think about people who actually choose to pursue prosecuting someone, it’s very difficult when you think about evidence, the difficulties we’ve had with collection in the past. So, this really is a great opportunity for survivors to have more confidence in the legal system,” said Laing, the interim executive director of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.
Laing said the fact that the new law will likely add thousands of names to the database will encourage women who’ve been attacked to fight for justice.
“I think the law gives survivors an opportunity to feel more empowered if they decide to pursue the legal justice route instead of feeling like the potential for getting a conviction is so small that it’s not something they would like to go through,” she said.
Schwartz said, “so being able to have their DNA on file to connect to other crimes, to hopefully prevent crimes in the future is just so important for victims.”
The law also says that facilities that use sexual assault evidence kits and forensic testing on a patient and should not bill the victim, their personal insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. The expenses should be covered by the state’s Rape Victim Assistance Program. HB 674 increases those payments to sexual assault nurse examiners, hospitals and facilities.
Laing said “that’s very, very heavy to weigh on someone’s mind when their thinking about other things that they might be pursuing or the trauma that they just went through. Thinking about a bill is ridiculous.”
“Patients don’t have to worry about confidentiality concerns, they don’t have to be afraid of a parent or relative getting an explanation of benefits from the insurance company. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to have to face a financial burden because they seek immediate health care after an assault,” said Schwartz.
After signing the bi-partisan bill into law, Governor Cooper said:
“I’ll continue working to strengthen protections against sexual assault by supporting proposals to collect DNA upon arrest for violent crimes against women, not just post-conviction. Doing so will make our communities even safer.”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said, “I’m grateful to the legislature for passing HB 674 and to Gov. Cooper for signing it into law. We know that many people who commit sexual assault have previously committed other violent crimes against women.”
Stein also said, “This bill improves our current DNA collection laws by adding the DNA of thousands of people convicted of certain crimes to our database, including assault on a female and assault on a child. This will help law enforcement solve more sexual assault cases and prevent future crimes, and I am proud of my office’s role in drafting and championing this law.”
The DNA collection portion of HB 674 goes into effect December 1, 2022. The billing section goes into effect October 1, 2022.
InterAct of Wake County
Sexual Assault 919-828-3005
Domestic Violence 919-828-7740
Orange County Rape Crisis Center
Phone or Text 919-967-7273