AB1517 Signed to Address CA’s Rape Kit Backlog

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed groundbreaking legislation aimed at eliminating California’s current backlog of untested rape kits and preventing the possibility of future backlogs. AB 1517, authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, and co-sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), brings justice to victims of sexual assault by ensuring that DNA evidence collected during sexual assault examinations is tested in a timely manner.

Communities throughout the state and nation currently face a backlog of untested rape kits. Studies provide insight into the scope of the problem. Starting in June 2011, D.A. O’Malley partnered with every law enforcement agency in Alameda County to audit all law enforcement property rooms for untested rape kits. This research revealed more than 1,900 untested rape kits in Alameda County alone.

The law enacted today amends the Sexual Assault DNA Victims’ Bill of Rights by setting forth timelines for law enforcement as well as crime labs to test rape kits. Law enforcement agencies should submit rape kits to crime labs within 20 days, and crime labs should process the DNA evidence and submit it to CODIS, the national database of DNA profiles, within 120 days.

“After a sexual assault, a victim undergoes an invasive physical examination to gather forensic evidence. To leave this evidence untested is unconscionable. Yet this happens all too often. The passage of this law marks a victory for sexual assault survivors. Critical DNA evidence will no longer languish untested in storage rooms. DNA will be tested and uploaded into a national data base, enabling law enforcement to identify and prosecute the criminals,” states District Attorney O’Malley. “I commend Governor Brown for signing this groundbreaking piece of legislation and am confident that the efforts underway in California will lead to similar advances throughout the country.”

“Leaving these kits on law enforcement property shelves gives serial rapists a free pass,” Assemblymember Skinner said, “AB 1517 will help ensure that criminal evidence contained in rape kits is tested promptly and that more rapists are caught and convicted. Reporting a sexual assault crime is a courageous act. AB 1517 lets rape survivors know that solving these crimes and prosecuting sexual assault criminals is a California priority.”

Posted on Sep 30, 2014