Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

Meet DA Nancy E. O'Malley

DA-Sponsored Sexual Assault Bill Signed by Governor

In a victory for survivors of sexual assault crimes, 
Governor Brown signs DA-sponsored bill mandating the statewide counting of backlogged sexual assault kits

In the final day of the legislative session, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 3118, sponsored by Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley, and co-sponsored with Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project, that will once and for all provide an accurate and full accounting of all backlogged sexual assault kits throughout California. This law puts the state a step closer to ending the decades-old backlog of sexual assault kits.

AB 3118, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), requires a statewide audit of police agencies, hospitals, crime labs, and any other facility that handles or stores sexual assault kits to get a definitive count of the backlog in California and submit that count to the California Department of Justice by July 1, 2019.

“For years, I have been fighting to assure an accurate accounting of backlogged sexual assault kits and to eliminate the backlog of these kits. Ultimately, it is vital that California never again sees any backlog in the testing this vital forensic evidence,” says DA O’Malley.

“I am very grateful to Assemblymember Chiu for carrying this important piece of legislation and to the Governor for signing it into law. This bill will make a significant impact in the lives of sexual assault survivors."

“The rape kit backlog is an embarrassment,” said Assemblymember David Chiu.

“I am happy Governor Brown saw the dire need to understand the extent of the rape kit backlog in California so we can address the issue. Given the current national conversation around sexual assault, it is more important now than ever that survivors of sexual assault know that California is working to get them the justice they deserve.”


The audit required in AB 3118 will provide a definitive answer to the actual number of kits that remain to be tested in California. It is vital to survivors, prosecutors, and law enforcement that this count takes place. Until cities and counties have a precise count on the number of SAKs that are yet to be tested, they cannot clear the remaining backlogs and victims cannot seek justice for the crimes committed against them.

DA O’Malley is a nationally recognized advocate and a tireless champion for victims’ rights. Throughout her career, DA O’Malley has sponsored countless pieces of legislation, including multiple sexual assault bills. DA O’Malley is a pioneer in the fight to end the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, and has been leader in this arena for years. AB 3118 is the fourth bill sponsored by the Alameda County DA’s Office specifically addressing the issue of the sexual assault kit backlog.

At a national level, DA O’Malley knew that sexual assault victims throughout the country needed to be heard and she took her efforts to end the backlog to Washington, DC. There, she met with members of President Obama’s White House as well as Senate and Congressional leaders. Her efforts resulted in securing more than $170 million in federal funding over four year period. These much-needed funds give communities all around the nation an opportunity to address the backlog in their own jurisdictions.

DA O’Malley also sponsored a companion bill, SB 1449, which would have mandated the testing of the sexual assault kits within a prescribed time period. Senator Connie Leyva carried that legislation, but the Governor vetoed it on September 30, 2018.

“I am gravely disappointed that SB 1449 was not also signed into law,” says DA O’Malley.

“When these kits sit untested, survivors are denied justice and perpetrators go undetected. We will continue to work alongside Senator Leyva and our other partners to ensure that a law requiring timely testing is enacted. We must do all we can to make sure that California protects survivors of sexual assault and identifies those who commit sexual violence.”

Senator Leyva states: “Though I am angry and disappointed by the Governor’s decision to veto SB 1449, I am as motivated now as ever to make sure that all newly collected rape kits are promptly tested in California. Just as the Legislature approved the bill unanimously, I have spoken to many rape survivors, survivor advocates, law enforcement leaders, and residents across our state who firmly agree that we must require the swift testing of all new rape kits.

"Though today may be a bump in the road, I commit to staying the course until we can fully ensure justice for survivors. We should never forget that these untested rape kits each represent a person, and they all need to be tested so we can identify assailants and help to put them behind bars so we can remind survivors that they matter. The fight continues!”

Background

In 2011, extensive work by the DA’s office revealed that there were close to 2,000 untested sexual assault kits in Alameda County, still sitting in police evidence rooms. The process of testing all of these kits for a foreign DNA profile to upload into the databases has been completed in Alameda County. However, this is still an issue facing thousands of jurisdictions around the country, leaving valuable forensic evidence unexamined and victims in limbo.

Following a sexual assault, law enforcement encourages victims to consent to a sexual assault examination and submit their bodies to be examined in an extensive procedure. Victims fully expect that the kits completed as part of the examination will be analyzed. Yet, that has not always been the case. Leaving sexual assaults kits untested, law enforcement lose the opportunity to develop DNA profiles, search for matches, link cold cases, prosecute offenders, and bring resolution to rape victims. It also prevents further sexual assault crimes by repeat and serial sex offenders.

Currently, California law states that law enforcement agencies “should” transfer rape kit evidence to the appropriate forensic laboratory within 20 days and that laboratories “should” process evidence as soon as possible, but no later than 120 days. Findings from public records requests filed by the Joyful Heart Foundation demonstrate significant variation in how law enforcement agencies have interpreted and implemented this legislative guidance. Just two jurisdictions of eight surveyed in 2017 reported full compliance with the intent of the law. What that means for survivors of sexual assault is that they are not receiving equal access to justice. Depending on the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred, the timeframe for the submission and analysis of their sexual assault kits may vary widely, slowing the criminal justice process. SB 1449 would have corrected this problem by changing the “should” to “shall” to create a mandate for timely testing of sexual assault kits.

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Posted on Oct 1, 2018