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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Sexual Assault Victims’ Petition to Access Justice in Utah Takes a Turn

April 03, 2019

Today four sexual assault victims – Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4 – took yet another unprecedented step to open the doors of justice.  

In October 2018 these sexual assault survivors filed a precedent-setting petition with the Utah Supreme Court, leveraging the Utah Constitution to seek Court appointment of a prosecutor to review of their cases.  Today, after their case led to legislation that re-envisions access to justice for survivors, they filed a notice with that same court seeking to withdraw their petition and instead making that request directly to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. 

The request comes under the provisions of a new law - H.B. 281, Prosecution Review Amendments - which passed in the last legislative session allowing the Attorney General’s Office to review decisions by local prosecutors not to file first-degree felony cases. The new review procedure is a novel approach that holds promise to help redress to the problem of under-prosecution of sexual assault cases. The National Crime Victim Law Institute, along with Professor Paul Cassell (of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah) and four other attorneys, has been representing the Jane Does.

In their original petition, the Jane Does challenged the decision by local prosecutors not to file charges in their sexual assault cases.  This action, brought under an innovative state constitutional theory, represented an important effort to provide an avenue for crime victims in general – and sexual assault victims in particular – to obtain review of prosecutors’ decisions not to file charges in criminal cases. Now, pursuant to the new law, these Jane Does are carving yet another new path for survivors and NCVLI is excited to be a part of it.

To read NCVLI’s press release regarding this breaking event, click here.

For further background information on the context of a victim’s right to seek prosecution, read our law survey, Fifty States and D.C. Survey of Laws That Authorize or Recognize Private Citizen-Initiated Investigation and/or Prosecution of Criminal Offenses,” and our Victim Law Bulletin, “Fundamentals Of Victims’ Rights: A Brief History of Crime Victims’ Rights in the United States.”