Bonifay native and state legislator authors new bill helping sexual assault victims

State Rep. Rachel Saunders Plakon (R-Seminole County), who grew up in Bonifay, has introduced the Retention of Sexual Offense Evidence Act, which requires medical kits used for forensic examinations in reported sexual assaults to be safely stored by law enforcement and with a “documented chain of custody.”

“This revolutionary legislation is a testament to Representative Plakon’s commitment to justice and well-being of survivors and aims to address a critical gap in Florida’s criminal justice system by establishing guidelines for the retention and storage of sexual offense evidence,” a news release from her office said. “By preserving sexual assault kits  for 50 years, Florida can ensure those kits will no longer be destroyed when the victim  decides not to press charges right away.”

The bill passed both the State House and Senate and was awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, as of press time. If signed, it goes into effect July 1 of this year. 

Plakon’s office said the bill’s intentions are “especially crucial considering that  many survivors may take years to come forward due to fear, trauma or other factors.”

“The bill will also ensure that even if a victim decides to file a report after the statute of  limitations has expired, their evidence can be used to provide leads for other crimes  under the Williams Rule,” the news release said.

In a prepared statement, Plakon said victims “will now be able to gain a little more time to heal before their cases are  prosecuted, and up to 50 years later, long after the statute of limitations on most crimes,  victims’ evidence can still be used to help solve other cases.”

“Imagine that someday we will all read about the justice and the healing that  prevail because of this bill,” she said. 

Plakon has sponsored and passed seven bills, including three last session focused on protecting women and children. 

“Plakon’s bill HB 365 ‘Controlled Substances’ helps hold all drug dealers accountable,” her office said. “The bill gained support from the Florida Sheriffs’ Association and was featured on the official podcast, where the group’s spokesperson praised Plakon for her responses during the lengthy questioning on the House floor.”

HB 365 was filed in collaboration  with Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma. Plakon continued her anti-drug work this session with a bill she collaborated on with Moody that outlawed tianeptine, also known as gas-station heroin.

Plakon is a former Miss Bonifay and a “high honors” graduate of  Holmes County High School. She is the daughter of Bill and Javetta Saunders and the granddaughter of the late Bartow and Syble Saunders and  the late Tup and Gladys McWaters–all of Bonifay. 

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