Bill Requiring Rape Kit Testing Passes Colorado House Judiciary Committee

The Colorado House Judiciary Committee has taken a step toward eliminating the state’s rape kit backlog. The Committee unanimously passed a bill, HB 1020, that would require each law enforcement agency to inventory—within 60 days—and send for testing—within 90 days—the untested kits in its storage facilities.

If passed by the rest of the Colorado General Assembly, the law would also mandate that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation propose a plan for analyzing all submitted rape kits by June 30, 2014. Going forward, the law would require rape kits to be submitted for testing within 21 days of receipt by a law enforcement agency.

State Rep. Frank McNulty introduced the bill in response to an ABC CALL7 investigative report uncovering hundreds of untested rape kits in the greater Denver area. In a guest commentary for the Colorado Observer, Rep. McNulty explained his concern after seeing the report:

It takes very real courage to come forward to report a sexual assault and even greater courage to go through the trauma of evidence being collected. These women subjected themselves to the trauma of evidence collection so that their attacker would be brought to justice and so that other women wouldn’t become victims of their attacker. If rape kits are not tested so that the evidence can be loaded into state and national databases, the opportunity to provide justice for other women who have been assaulted by these same predators is dismissed.

He also made the case for testing every rape kit booked into police evidence:

Some maintain that not every kit submitted needs to be tested. While I understand this from the perspective of allocating financial resources, I simply don’t agree. We should be thorough in testing submitted rape kits and respecting the women who were assaulted. Troubling is the fact that, in one case, only 26 percent of the rape kits that were collected were tested – leaving 74 percent untested. In my opinion, that isn’t right. That agency has since changed its policy and is testing more evidence collected. We need other agencies to do the same.

The Call 7 report that inspired Rep. McNulty to introduce HB 1020 included an interview with a survivor whose rape kit was never tested. She asked:

 “Is it an unrealistic expectation that all evidence be considered and that the investigative process be complete?”

She also bravely testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 1020, pointing out to lawmakers that testing all rape kits, regardless of the type of crime, can help to identify serial rapists.

If this bill becomes law, Colorado will be the third state—behind Illinois and Texas—to require the testing of all rape kits. We are eager to share updates as HB 1020 progresses through the state legislature.

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