Defining the Rape Kit Backlog

The rape kit backlog comprises two distinct but related problems. The first part of the backlog occurs when rape kits are collected and booked into evidence, but detectives and/or prosecutors do not request DNA analysis. These kits may remain in a police evidence storage facility indefinitely. This is often referred to as the “untested” or “unsubmitted” rape kit backlog. The Joyful Heart Foundation defines an untested and/or backlogged kit as one that has not been submitted to an accredited public or private crime lab for testing within 30 days of being booked into evidence.

The second part of the backlog occurs in crime laboratory facilities, where rape kits that have been submitted for testing are awaiting DNA analysis. Many kits that are submitted to crime labs are not tested in a timely manner, creating the second part of the backlog. The Joyful Heart Foundation defines a “backlogged” kit at the DNA testing lab as one that has not been tested within 30 days of receipt by the lab.

We believe every rape kit booked into evidence and connected to a reported sexual assault should be submitted to a crime lab for testing, and that crime labs must commit to testing rape kit evidence in a timely manner.

Since most jurisdictions do not have systems for counting or tracking rape kits, we cannot be sure of the total number of untested rape kits nationwide. Additionally, there is no federal law mandating a tracking and testing rape kits. It is estimated, however, that there are hundreds of thousands of untested kits in police and crime lab storage facilities throughout the country.

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