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Arizona commission working on bill, new system to help sex assault victims

(Facebook Photo/@azcjc)

PHOENIX — The director of the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission says the group is working to help victims of sexual assault navigate the justice system more easily.

Andrew LeFevre told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday, during Victims Rights Week, that the commission is updating the system that victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and other crimes use to obtain orders of protection.

“In 2018, we undertook a statewide project that was the first comprehensive rewrite of our orders of protection and injunction against harassment process in over 25 years,” LeFevre said.

“We have a very antiquated paper-based system, very difficult for folks that are seeking those protections from our court to navigate and understand how they get that protection and then how they get those papers served.”

Next year, a new, streamlined system should help the process go more smoothly, he said.

“Starting in January of 2020, an entirely new electronic process will go into place,” he said.

“It’s going to be much easier for folks to seek that protection. It’s going to be much quicker for those papers to be served and be enforceable.”

LeFevre said the comission is also working to change a law that could prevent a sexual assault victim from even qualifying for a protective order in the first place.

In the law, which outlines circumstances that justify protective orders, harassment is defined as a series of acts over time.

“So if somebody is a victim of sexual assault without that personal relationship, it would have to occur more than once before they can seek that relief from the court, and that just doesn’t seem right,” LeFevre said.

He said the commission has been working on getting SB 1250 passed, which carves out an exception in that law for victims of sexual assault.

The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a final vote in the House. LeFevre said he anticipates it will go through without a problem.

“We would be excited if it got signed in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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