California could soon be the first state in the nation to separate investigations and prosecutions from the chain of command in the state's military departments.
National Guard members in trouble for sexual assault could soon be investigated by local police or district attorney staffers under a proposed bill in the California legislature.
State Senator Alex Padilla authored a bill that he hopes will set the standard for the U.S. Armed Forces.
The bill would make it law that sex assaults involving California's Military Departments or CMDs be adjudicated by local, civilian authorities.
“If we can be example for other states to follow and for our nation to follow then California will be a leader when it comes protecting and respecting the men and women of the military," Padilla said Monday.
Part of Padilla's rationale-- the military's insular culture doesn't allow victims to be heard.
According to the Department of Defense, the number of reported sexual assaults in the military rose 50 percent last year over 2012.
Military criminal defense attorney and retired Marine Colonel Jane Siegel has been involved in a lot of sexual assault cases.
Seigel applauds the bill saying its good in theory but notes California has no jurisdiction over the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Right now it’s a paper tiger,” she said. “They're doing the right thing for the right reasons but it doesn’t have the legs.”
CMD's don't have dedicated judicial departments to adjudicate sexual assaults so policy dictates the cases get farmed out to local authorities. Padilla's bill would make it a law not just policy.
The bill could make it to the governor’s desk later this week.