Inventory untested rape kits?
Test backlogged rape kits?
Test newly collected rape kits?
Grant victims rights to notice and be informed?
Track rape kits?
Appropriate funding for rape kit reform?
Montana law does not require law enforcement agencies to count, track, or test rape kits. In 2015, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced the establishment of the Montana Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force to examine the backlog of untested rape kits in the state. In 2016, the task force announced that there were 1,410 untested rape kits across the state. In March 2018, the task force reported to the Great Falls Tribune that 1,188 untested rape kits remained.
In 2015, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested kits in Billings to light. Through our efforts, we have learned that the Billings Police Department submitted 97% of all rape kits received between 2006 and 2015 to the lab for testing. As of November 2016, the Billings Police Department reported 5 untested kits in storage.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice awarded the Montana Department of Justice $284,500 to implement an evidence management program to inventory, track, and report untested and unsubmitted rape kits. In the same year, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded the Montana Board of Crime Control (BCC) $1,999,040 to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors.In 2017, the BJA awarded the BCC an additional $917,740 to sustain this work.
In December 2018, Montana legislators introduced a bill for the 2019 legislative session that for kits with consent to test, the bill would require law enforcement to retrieve the kit from a medical facility within 5 days of evidence collection, and to submit the kit to a crime lab for testing within 30 days of receipt. For kits without consent to test, health care facilities must inform the victim that the evidence will be forwarded to the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) for storage for a minimum of 1 year before the kit can be destroyed. Under this bill, all kits with consent to testing must be submitted to the state crime lab within 30 days after receiving the kit. This provision will be in effect for four years. The bill would also direct DOJ to create and operate a statewide rape kit tracking system that allows survivors to access anonymously. Lastly, the bill would instruct DOJ to prepare a model form outlining victims' rights, including the right to request information such as the current status of the case.
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