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Evidence Retention Laws

New Resources Available

The National Center for Victims of Crime, under a grant funded by the Office of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, is pleased to announce a new resource:

This chart summarizes the evidence retention laws of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The chart shows the crimes covered under the evidence retention statute, the length of time that preservation is required, exceptions, and penalties for unlawful disposal.

 

State Laws

Enacted:

  • New Jersey: July 2014 Directive

    On July 10, 2014 the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety issued a new Directive requiring that sexual assault medical examination evidence be retained for a minimum of five years before destruction, allowing victims time to decide whether to release the evidence to law enforcement. This new policy dramatically expands New Jersey’s 90-day minimum retention period by amending relevant Attorney General Standards and Guidelines. The Directive is a response to a statewide evaluation of local policies, which was requested by New Jersey’s CASA. 

State Laws

Pending:

  • Hawaii: Senate Bill 2128
    Hawaii Senate Bill 2128 would amend the state’s evidence retention law, adding a provision that provides for the destruction of DNA evidence upon a court order. Notice of destruction must first be given to interested parties, and the court will hold a hearing on the matter if there are any objections to the destruction of the evidence. This bill was referred to committee on March 7, 2014.
  • New Jersey: Assembly Bill 1666
    New Jersey Assembly Bill 1666 requires law enforcement to retain DNA evidence relating to an investigation or prosecution of a crime while the crime is unsolved or the person convicted of the crime (or a co-defendant) is in custody. DNA evidence can be destroyed before this time if there is no objection after a notice of impending destruction is given.  The Bill also provides that if retention is impracticable, law enforcement may retain small portions of the evidence, in a quantity sufficient to permit future DNA testing.
  • New Jersey: Senate Bill 1522
    New Jersey Senate Bill 1522 requires biological evidence be retained for as long as the crime remains unsolved or as long as the person convicted is in custody. The amount of evidence retained must be sufficient to create a DNA profile. The bill also provides that evidence can be destroyed earlier if written notification is given and there are no objections to the destruction.  The bill was introduced to the Senate on February 27, 2014 and has been referred to committee. 
  • Pennsylvania: Senate Bill 710
    Pennsylvania Senate Bill  710 provides for the retention of biological evidence for as long as criminal proceedings are pending or the defendant is incarcerated for the offense. This provision provides a list of exceptions to this retention period and further requires that all biological evidence must be stored in a manner that will maintain the integrity of the evidence. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 20, 2013.
  • Washington: Senate Bill 6310
    Washington Senate Bill 6310 prohibits the destruction of DNA evidence in connection with a criminal investigation or a case relating to a felony offense.  The Bill establishes a work group on preservation of evidence for criminal justice purposes to recommend statewide standards for preserving biological material in felony cases. The work group shall compile and report their recommendations by December 1, 2014.