Louisiana Crime Victims Bill of Rights Act Increases Sexual Abuse Survivors’ Access to Evidence and Streamlines the Path to Justice
In June 2022, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law specific amendments to the state’s Crime Victims Bill of Rights. Effective August 1, 2022, these measures are intended to reduce obstacles sexual assault survivors often encounter when seeking justice from their assailants.
While some victims’ advocates have expressed concern that the changes don’t go far enough, the new laws give sexual abuse survivors access to critical evidence to pursue civil remedies.
Access to Police Reports and Law Enforcement Records
A new provision of the act allows crime victims (or their designated family members) to review or copy law enforcement records related to the assault and abuse. A government agency may deny the request only if disclosing the records would interfere with an investigation or prosecution. If an agency denies the request, it must provide a written explanation to the victim.
Forensic Medical Reports Provided Free of Charge
Another amendment permits victims to obtain copies of their written forensic medical reports for free. More broadly, it allows victims of violent crimes to obtain initial police reports at no cost.
Medical providers must provide the forensic report within 14 days of the request or completion of the documentation, whichever is later. The forensic medical exam records must be provided to the victim free of charge.
The law also requires that the medical examiner notify the victim of their option to have a “sexual assault advocate” present during the exam.
Removing Red Tape
Additionally, the Louisiana Crime Victims Bill of Rights now removes certain administrative obstacles for sexual abuse survivors, such as:
• Review and comment on pre-sentence or post-sentence reports relating to the crime without registering with the court clerk.
• Make a victim impact statement without registering with law enforcement or a judicial agency.
Under the amendment, survivors can now exercise their rights regardless of when the crime was reported. The prior version granted specific rights only if the crime was reported within 72 hours of the occurrence.
Clarification of Deadline to File Sexual Assault Civil Lawsuits
Until 2021, Louisiana law required survivors abused as minors to file a civil lawsuit against their assailants by age 28. However, in 2021 the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 322 which removed the time limit for filing claims based on childhood sexual abuse. The act also created a three-year “lookback window” to revive previously time-barred civil claims of survivors for a three year period of time from June 14, 2021 through June 14, 2024.
Following the passage of Act 322, the Catholic Church had tried to argue that the lookback period applied only to incidents of abuse after 1993. The Louisiana legislature cleared up any confusion with a new amendment: survivors of any age who were sexually abused as minors—regardless of when the abuse occurred—have until June 14, 2024, to file a civil lawsuit.
What Does This Mean for Sexual Assault Victims?
These recent amendments to the Louisiana Crime Victims Bill of Rights have lowered or eliminated barriers that could have prevented or discouraged sexual assault survivors from pursuing justice in a civil lawsuit. No longer will time limits that ignored survivors’ reluctance to come forward, burdensome administrative requirements that deterred victims from seeking help, or unjustifiable rules that blocked access to critical information impose obstacles.
With these revisions, survivors of sexual abuse and other violent crimes have greater access to the evidence and processes to hold their attackers accountable. But the process is still difficult to navigate alone.
If you or someone you know is a sexual assault survivor, the compassionate attorneys at Lamothe Law Firm are here to help you through the next steps with the sensitivity and empathy you deserve. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation.