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Proposed Legislation Would Change Campus Sex Crime Jurisdiction

sex crime, campus police, Illinois Criminal Defense LawyerA new measure has been proposed in the Illinois House that would change the way in which sexual assaults are investigated on college campuses. The bill was drafted in response to a number of high-profile cases involving campus sex crimes that university police and administrators have been accused of mishandling.

In late March, Representative David Harris, R-ArlingtonHeights, introduced House Bill 3520, known as the Investigations of Sexual Assault in Higher Education Act. In drafting the bill, Rep. Harris hoped to address growing concerns that police departments on public university and community college campuses may be hamstrung in their efforts to effectively investigate sex crimes occurring in their jurisdiction. His proposal would make local law enforcement officials, such as municipal police departments and county sheriffs, responsible for the investigation of such crimes.

“My concern was that campus police are not as equipped, trained, and prepared to handle allegations of sexual assaults as are trained law enforcement officers,” he said. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, he indicated the dangerous possibility exists that a campus police department may be more interested in protecting the school from negative publicity than seeking justice for victims. “I’m not saying this happens,” Harris said, “but there could be a bias on the part of campus police.”

There are many, however, who disagree with Harris’ position, including the Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Association. Chief Patrick O’Connor, president of the organization, believes that campus department typically have more facilities and specific support regarding sex crimes than a municipality might. As a current campus police chief, he also took issue with the perceived potential bias. “Not investigating in today’s era is going to do more damage to your institution,” he said.

Many of the concerns leading to the debate over campus sex crime jurisdiction stem from a 2011 case at Northern Illinois University. In that instance, a campus police officer was accused of sexual assault, yet his own campus police department was tasked with investigating the allegations. A judge later determined that the case had been mishandled, and many believe the involvement of a municipal department may have prevented the problems.

Despite gaining two Democrat co-sponsors, making the bill a bi-partisan effort, the measure will not be voted on until the fall at the earliest. In the meantime, federal lawmakers have also introduced legislation aimed an increasing accountability for the investigation of campus sex crimes.

If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual assault, or any other type of sex crime, the attorney you choose can make a world of difference. Contact an experienced DuPage County criminal defense lawyer and get the representation you deserve during a difficult time. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation. We will review your case and help you understand your options in how to proceed.

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