University of California Santa Cruz Police Department
UC Santa Cruz PD Policy Manual



Sexual Assault Investigations


The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for the investigation of sexual assaults. These guidelines will address some of the unique aspects of such cases and the effects that these crimes have on the victims.

Mandatory notifications requirements are addressed in the Child Abuse and Adult Abuse policies.



Definitions related to this policy include:

Sexual assault - Any crime or attempted crime of a sexual nature, to include but not limited to offenses defined in Penal Code § 243.4, Penal Code § 261 et seq., and Penal Code § 285 et seq.

Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) - A multidisciplinary team generally comprised of advocates; law enforcement officers; forensic medical examiners, including sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs) or sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) if possible; forensic laboratory personnel; and prosecutors. The team is designed to coordinate a broad response to sexual assault victims.


602.2     POLICY

It is the policy of the University of California Santa Cruz Police Department that its members, when responding to reports of sexual assaults, will strive to minimize the trauma experienced by the victims, and will aggressively investigate sexual assaults, pursue expeditious apprehension and conviction of perpetrators, and protect the safety of the victims and the community.



Qualified investigators should be available for assignment of sexual assault investigations. These investigators should:

 (a) Have specialized training in, and be familiar with, interview techniques and the medical and legal issues that are specific to sexual assault investigations.

 (b) Conduct follow-up interviews and investigation.

 (c) Present appropriate cases of alleged sexual assault to the prosecutor for review.

 (d) Coordinate with other enforcement agencies, social service agencies and medical personnel as needed.

 (e) Provide referrals to therapy services, victim advocates and support for the victim.

 (f) Participate in or coordinate with SART.


602.4     REPORTING

In all reported or suspected cases of sexual assault, a report should be written and assigned   for follow-up investigation. This includes incidents in which the allegations appear unfounded or unsubstantiated.



In cases where the perpetrator is not known to the victim, and especially if there are multiple crimes where more than one appear to be related, consideration should be given to releasing information to the public whenever there is a reasonable likelihood that doing so may result in developing helpful investigative leads. The Detective Bureau supervisor should weigh the risk of alerting the suspect to the investigation with the need to protect the victim and the public, and to prevent more crimes.


602.6     TRAINING

Subject to available resources, periodic training will be provided to:

 (a) Members who are first responders. Training should include:

  1. Initial response to sexual assaults.
  2. Legal issues.
  3. Victim advocacy.
  4. Victim’s response to trauma.
  5. Proper use and handling of the California standardized SAFE kit (Penal Code § 13823.14).

 (b) Qualified investigators who should receive advanced training on additional topics. Advanced training should include:

  1. Interviewing sexual assault victims.
  2.  SART.
  3. Medical and legal aspects of sexual assault investigations.
  4. Serial crimes investigations.
  5. Use of community and other federal and state investigative resources, such as the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).
  6. Techniques for communicating with victims to minimize trauma.



The primary considerations in sexual assault investigations, which begin with the initial call to the Dispatch Center, should be the health and safety of the victim, the preservation of evidence, and preliminary interviews to determine if a crime has been committed and to attempt to identify the suspect.

Whenever possible, a member of SART should be included in the initial victim interviews.        An in-depth follow-up interview should not be conducted until after the medical and forensic examinations are completed and the personal needs of the victim have been met (e.g., change of clothes, bathing). The follow-up interview may be delayed to the following day based upon the circumstances. Whenever practicable, the follow-up interview should be conducted by a qualified investigator.

No opinion of whether the case is unfounded shall be included in the report.

Victims shall not be asked or required to take a polygraph examination (34 USC § 10451; Penal Code § 637.4).

Victims should be apprised of applicable victim’s rights provisions, as outlined in the Victim and Witness Assistance Policy.



Whenever there is an alleged sexual assault, the assigned officer shall accomplish the following:

 (a) Advise the victim in writing of the right to have a victim advocate and a support person of the victim's choosing present at any interview or contact by law enforcement, any other rights of a sexual assault victim pursuant to Penal Code 680.2 and the right to have a person of the same or opposite gender present in the room during any interview with a law enforcement official unless no such person is reasonably available (Penal Code § 679.04).

 (b) If the victim is transported to a hospital for any medical evidentiary or physical examination, the officer shall immediately cause the local rape victim counseling center to be notified (Penal Code § 264.2).

(a) The officer shall not discourage a victim from receiving a medical evidentiary or physical examination (Penal Code § 679.04).

(b) A support person may be excluded from the examination by the officer or the medical provider if his/her presence would be detrimental to the purpose of the examination (Penal Code § 264.2).

(c) The victim will be provided with  a  Marsy's  Card,  and  a  "Reporting Options" brochure (Clery Act). The resources and rights contained within both documents shall be explained to the victim during the initial response.


Officers investigating or receiving a report of an alleged sex offense shall inform the victim, or the victim’s parent or guardian if the victim is a minor, that his/her name will become a matter of public record unless the victim requests that his/her name not be made public. The reporting officer shall document in his/her report that the victim was properly informed and shall include any related response made by the victim, or if a minor, any response made by the victim’s parent or guardian (Penal Code § 293).

Except as authorized by law, members of this department shall not publicly disclose the name of any victim of a sex crime who has exercised his/her right to confidentiality (Penal Code § 293).



Whenever possible, a SART member should be involved in the collection of forensic evidence from the victim.

When the facts of the case indicate that collection of biological evidence is warranted, it should be collected regardless of how much time has elapsed since the reported assault.

If a drug-facilitated sexual assault is suspected, urine and blood samples should be collected from the victim as soon as practicable.

Subject to requirements set forth in this policy, biological evidence from all sexual assault cases, including cases where the suspect is known by the victim, should be submitted for testing.

Victims who choose not to assist with an investigation, do not desire that the matter be investigated, or wish to remain anonymous may still consent to the collection of evidence under their control. In these circumstances, the evidence should be collected and stored appropriately.



Members investigating a sexual assault offense should take every reasonable step to ensure that DNA testing of such evidence is performed in a timely manner and within the time periods prescribed by Penal Code § 803(g). Generally, SAFE kits should be submitted to the crime lab within 20 days after being booked into evidence (Penal Code § 680).

In order to maximize the effectiveness of such testing and identify the perpetrator of any sexual assault, the assigned officer shall ensure that an information profile for the SAFE kit evidence has been created in the California Department of Justice (DOJ) SAFE-T database within 120 days of collection and should further ensure that the results of any such test have been timely entered into and checked against both the DOJ Cal-DNA database and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) (Penal Code § 680.3).

If the assigned officer determines that a SAFE kit submitted to a private laboratory for analysis has not been tested within 120 days after submission, the officer shall update the SAFE-T database to reflect the reason for the delay in testing. The assigned officer shall continue to update the status every 120 days thereafter until the evidence has been analyzed or the statute of limitations has run (Penal Code § 680.3).

If, for any reason, DNA evidence in a sexual assault case in which the identity of the perpetrator is in issue and is not going to be analyzed within 18 months of the crime, the assigned officer shall notify the victim of such fact in writing no less than 60 days prior to the expiration of the 18- month period (Penal Code § 680(d)).

Additional guidance regarding evidence retention and destruction is found in the Property and Evidence Policy.



A SART member should be consulted regarding the best way to deliver biological testing results to a victim so as to minimize victim trauma, especially in cases where there has been a significant delay in getting biological testing results (e.g., delays in testing the evidence or delayed DNA databank hits). Members should make reasonable efforts to assist the victim by providing available information on local assistance programs and organizations as provided in the Victim and Witness Assistance Policy.

 (a) Upon receipt of a written request from a sexual assault victim or the victim’s authorized designee, members investigating sexual assault cases shall inform the victim of the status of the DNA testing of any evidence from the victim’s case (Penal Code § 680).

  1. Although such information may be communicated orally, the assigned officer should thereafter follow-up with and retain a copy of confirmation by either written or electronic mail.
  2. Absent a written request, no member of this department is required to, but may, communicate with the victim or the victim’s authorized designee regarding the status of any DNA testing.

 (b) Subject to the commitment of sufficient resources to respond to requests for information, sexual assault victims shall further have the following rights (Penal Code § 680):

  1. To be informed if a DNA profile of the assailant was obtained from the testing of the SAFE kit or other crime scene evidence from their case.
  2. To be informed if there is a match between the DNA profile of the assailant developed from the evidence and a DNA profile contained in the DOJ Convicted Offender DNA Database, providing that disclosure would not impede or compromise an ongoing investigation.
  3. To be informed if the DNA profile of the assailant developed from the evidence has been entered into the DOJ Databank of case evidence.

 (c) Provided that the sexual assault victim or the victim’s authorized designee has kept the assigned officer informed with regard to current address, telephone number, and email address (if available), any victim or the victim’s authorized designee shall, upon request, be advised of any known significant changes regarding the victim’s case (Penal Code § 680).

  1. Although such information may be communicated orally, the assigned officer should thereafter follow-up with and retain a copy of confirmation by either written or electronic mail.
  2. No officer shall be required or expected to release any information which might impede or compromise any ongoing investigation.


The Property and Evidence Section supervisor should make California standardized sexual assault forensic medical evidence (SAFE) kits available to members who may investigate sexual assault cases. Members investigating a sexual assault should use these SAFE kits when appropriate and follow related usage guidelines issued by the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center (Penal Code § 13823.14).



If the assigned investigator has reason to believe the case is without merit, the case may be classified as unfounded only upon review and approval of the Detective Bureau supervisor.

Classification of a sexual assault case as unfounded requires the Detective Bureau supervisor to determine that the facts have significant irregularities with reported information and that the incident could not have happened as it was reported. When a victim has recanted his/her original statement, there must be corroborating evidence that the allegations were false or baseless (i.e., no crime occurred) before the case should be determined as unfounded.


602.10     CASE REVIEW

The Detective Bureau supervisor should ensure case dispositions are reviewed on a periodic basis, at least annually, using an identified group that is independent of the investigation process. The reviews should include an analysis of:

  • Case dispositions.
  • Decisions to collect biological evidence.
  • Submissions of biological evidence for lab testing.

The SART and/or victim advocates should be considered for involvement in this audit. Summary reports on these reviews should be forwarded through the chain of command to the Chief of Police.




Policy 602 PDF