Does New Mexico...
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?
New Mexico law does not require law enforcement agencies to count or track rape kits.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested rape kits in Albuquerque to light. Through this request, we uncovered a backlog of 835 untested kits in Albuquerque. In 2016, the New Mexico State Auditor released a report investigating the backlog in New Mexico, announcing a total of 5,440 untested rape kits across the state.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the New Mexico Department of Public Safety $1,999,940 to process more than 1,500 unsubmitted kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors. In 2017, the BJA awarded the City of Albuquerque Police Department $2,499,796 to support a coordinated response to the local backlog, address APD-specific factors that contributed to the backlog of untested rape kits in the city, and support the prosecution of backlog-related cases.
In 2017, the Albuquerque City Council introduced a resolution that would require APD to submit all newly collected kits to a crime lab within 10 business days, and would require labs to tested kits within 3 months of receipt. If APD is unable to meet these deadlines, the Chief of Police must contract with outside laboratories for analysis. The resolution also requires the Chief of Police to report annually regarding the number of rape kits collected, the number of rape kits awaiting submission or testing, and the average number of days between kit submission and testing. Since the majority of the state's rape kit backlog originated in Albuquerque, this measure is an important step toward statewide reform. Read our letter of support.
In 2017, New Mexico enacted multiple rape kit reform laws:
- S.B. 474 requires the Department of Public Safety to assist local crime labs with backlogs of untested rape kits.
- S.B. 475 requires law enforcement agencies to submit all newly collected rape kits to the lab within 30 days of receipt and requires labs to report annually if they had 300 or more untested rape kits awaiting testing at the end of the previous fiscal year. Read Joyful Heart's letter of support.
- H.B. 536 creates a voluntary donation program to enable New Mexicans to donate to test backlogged rape kits through state tax filings.
In 2018, New Mexico legislators introduced bills that would mandate biennial inventory reports of rape kits in the custody of law enforcement agencies statewide and would grant sexual assault survivors the right to notice regarding rape kit testing status and results. These bills failed to pass.
Also in 2018, BJA awarded the New Mexico Second Judicial District Attorney $1 million to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors in the criminal justice system.
In 2019, New Mexico legislators enacted a law to create the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights. Law enforcement officials must inform survivors they have right to know if their kit has been tested and the date results are expected, if a DNA profile was developed, if there was a DNA match, and information regarding the statewide rape kit tracking system. In cases where the offender has not been identified, law enforcement must notify survivors 180 days before destruction of their rape kit and provide information on how to appeal this decision. Before interviewing a survivor, law enforcement must provide a survivor with a document informing them of their rights. Additionally, this law requires state crime labs to test kits within 180 days of receipt.
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