JUNEAU (AP) -- Sexual assault victims cannot be billed for tests to collect evidence of the crime under a bill signed into law Tuesday.
Gov. Tony Knowles signed House Bill 270 outside the Sexual Assault Response Team exam room at Alaska Regional Hospital. He was surrounded by victim's advocates, law enforcement officials and legislators.
The new law sponsored by Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, makes it illegal for a law enforcement agency or a health care facility to require a victim of sexual assault to pay for an exam to collect evidence or determine whether a sexual assault occurred.
''We would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence,'' Knowles said. ''Nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.''
Although billing for rape exams is rare, it has occurred in Alaska. State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the costs in the past.
However, in other jurisdictions, bills ranging from $300 to $1,200 have been sent to the victim or the victim's insurance company.
''The idea is to put the victim at ease as much as possible, to collect evidence that will help convict the perpetrator, and to do it without forcing the victim to have to repeat the grim story to different investigators,'' Knowles said.
Police report there were more than 384 reported forcible rapes in Alaska in 1998, the most recent year for which information is available.
The bill passed the House and Senate without opposition.
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