SACRAMENTO - A new bill that would impose shorter time frames for processing rape kits has passed the assembly public safety committee.
"We're here in support of AB1517, which the Assembly's Public Safety Committee just voted in support of and sent out of committee and is now on its way through the legislative process," Assem. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said.
The new legislation would require police to submit the evidence collected in a rape kit to crime labs within five days of collection. Crime labs would then have 30 days to process and upload DNA into the FBI's national DNA registry. The bill would also require sexual assault victims to be notified if police do not process their kits within the allotted time frame.
"We need to analyze this evidence because the evidence then extracts DNA which is put in a national database, the CODIS, and allows us to, even if we know the assailant, it allows us to see whether that assailant has committed any other crime," Skinner said.
"In California, we know that there are over 7,800 sexual assault crimes reported in approximately every year particularly in 2012. In that same year, there were only over 1,600 arrests made. That's only 21 percent of sexual assault crimes resulted in an arrest," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said. "At the same time, we have invaluable evidence sitting in police evidence room, in their evidence lockers, that could help us solve those crimes and stop these serial rapists from doing this again."
Under current California law there are no specific deadlines for how quickly rape kits should be processed. Past internal audits have shown that Los Angeles County had 12,000 untested rap kits and Alameda County had 1,900 untested kits in police evidence. There are no statewide statistics on how many rape kits go untested.
"What this legislation does is this gives the guidelines to law enforcement and to crime labs so that we don't have this horrendous situation that we are seeing across the country and certainly across the state," O'Malley said. "In my county, we embarked on this about four years ago and we discovered that as forward thinking and aggressive as we were on prosecuting sexual assault cases, we had 1,900 cases sitting in the police evidence rooms across our county."
It is unclear whether the state would be expected to fund the processing of potentially thousands of backlogged rape kits.