Governor Brown Signs DNA Bill into Law

On October 12, 2107, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation authored by Assemblymember David Chiu and sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley that requires law enforcement agencies to annually report data on the collection and testing of sexual assault evidence kits to the California Department of Justice. This new law, AB 41, provides greater transparency for survivors and policy makers.

“The neglect of sexual assault kits with no explanation of why they were not analyzed simply adds to the trauma endured by survivors seeking justice,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.

“With a few extra keystrokes to log into SAFE-T, law enforcement has the ability to improve prosecution and provide victims of sexual assault who reported a crime with information about their case that they deserve to know.”

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know what happened to the sexual assault evidence kits they submitted,” said Assemblymember Chiu.

“To get at the heart of the backlog problem we need to know how many kits are collected each year, and if they’re not analyzed, we need to know why. This data will help shed some light on improvements that law enforcement needs to make and whether or not they need more resources to get the kits tested."

The mismanagement of sexual assault evidence kits, often referred to as the rape kit backlog, is a problem that plagues cities throughout the state and the nation. Many jurisdictions, including Alameda County, have worked to successfully decrease or eliminate their backlogs. However, there is currently no comprehensive data available in California about the number of sexual assault evidence kits that local law enforcement agencies collect annually, how many of those kits are analyzed, or reasons some sexual assault evidence kits are not analyzed.

A 2014 report by the California State Auditor revealed that each year kits go unanalyzed for a variety of reasons. AB 41 directly addresses this problem by directing law enforcement agencies to track and report each sexual assault kit with the Department of Justice through their Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking system (SAFE-T).

This database allows local agencies to log and provide status updates for each kit they collect. With documented reasons for the decisions, agencies would be able to clearly demonstrate to victims, policy makers, and other interested parties why they did not request analyses of each kit.

DA O’Malley is a national leader in the effort to ensure that all sexual assault kits are tested and that the testing take place in a timely manner. Her dedication to this issue has led to increased public awareness, legislative changes, systemic improvements and increased funding.

Posted on Oct 13, 2017