Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Laws
These state laws (enacted and pending) require mandatory submission of sexual assault kits, including old, untested kits and current kits.
- California: Sexual Assault Victims' DNA Bill of Rights
In 2003, California passed the"Sexual Assault Victims' DNA Bill of Rights," the first law of its
kind in the nation. This legislation addresses the issue of the importance of timely DNA analysis of rape kit evidence and provides sexual assault victims with the right to be informed of the status of the testing of their kits and whether or not a match has been identified.
- Illinois: Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act
§ 725 ILCS 202/5.
This law, the first of its kind in the country, mandates submission and testing of all sexual assault evidence. It requires law enforcement agencies to submit sexual assault evidence kits to the Illinois State Police (ISP) within 10 days of receiving the kits, and requires ISP to analyze the kits within 10 days. The law also requires all law enforcement agencies to provide ISP with an inventory of the untested kits in their possession.
- Texas: Analysis of Sexual Assault Evidence
Gov't Code § 420.042.
This law requires all Texas police departments to submit rape kit evidence to crime labs within 30 days of being collected.
- Colorado: House Bill 1020
Colorado House Bill 1020 requires the Department of Public Safety to create rules governing forensic evidence (DNA evidence) collected in a sexual assault investigation. Specifically, the Bill requires that forensic testing be done in sexual assault cases if requested by a victim, and the forensic evidence must be submitted to an accredited crime laboratory within 21 days after the forensic evidence is received by a law enforcement agency. Additionally, the Bill would require law enforcement agencies to submit an inventory of untested sexual assault kits in active investigations to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and and CBI must submit a plan to analyze all of the unanalyzed sexual assault forensic evidence in inventory. The bill requires law enforcement agencies to inform the victim of the purpose of the submission of the forensic evidence and obtain the written consent of the victim before the release. This bill is currently in committee pending further action.
- Tennessee: Senate Bill 831
Tennessee Senate Bill 831 would allow prosecutors to begin a case against an offender who can only be identified by DNA evidence and, therefore, prevent the statute of limitations from expiring on the case. Presently, DNA evidence is not sufficient under Tennessee law to begin a prosecution of a suspect identified by DNA evidence only. The bill has be referred out of committee and is pending further action.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act of 2013 (SAFER Act) became law on March 7, 2013 as Title X of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (113 P.L. 4). The SAFER Act aims to reduce the sexual assault kit backlog through a variety of funding streams and reporting mechanisms. Specifically, the SAFER Act amended the Debbie Smith Act (42 U.S.C. 14135) to create grants to audit the sexual assault kit backlog, providing that between 5%-7% of funding authorized under the Debbie Smith Act be allocated for audits of the sexual assault kit backlog.
The SAFER Act also requires that no less than 75% of the funding allocated under the SAFER Act must be directed at reducing the sexual assault kit backlog and increasing the capacity of labs processing sexual assault kits through 2018. Additionally, the Act authorizes the provision of technical assistance to states in the area of sexual assault kit backlogs, and requires that protocols for processing of the kits be established within 18 months of the law becoming effective.
The SAFER Act requires reports from the Attorney General of the United States to Congress concerning Debbie Smith grants made. The reports are to include information on where the grants are awarded and summarizing the numbers of kits tested as well as the number remaining untested. Finally, the act applies the VAWA accountability provisions to the SAFER grants, and repeals the Debbie Smith Act audit grants effective 2018.
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