California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino has introduced legislation in the state government to track and report untested rape kits and set a time limit for labs to process them. From an article on patch.com:
The bill, AB 322…would mandate that rape kits used for DNA testing be sent by law enforcement agencies to a lab within 30 days, and be processed within six months. Agencies would also have to send regular reports on the number of unprocessed rape kits to the [California] Department of Justice that would be also be available to the public.
Portantino, a strong advocate of rape kit reform, has introduced similar legislation in the past, which passed in the legislature both times, but was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who cited a lack of available time and money on the part of law enforcement. From the press release issued by Portantino’s office:
“It’s unconscionable that thousands of rape kits remain unopened and untested across California,” stated Portantino. “Rape kits hold vital evidence that is crucial to a criminal conviction, while the clock is ticking on the statute of limitation for these crimes. It’s frustrating to know that a rapist could be walking free and a victim who suffered is further disrespected because a vital piece of evidence went untested.”
In 2008, the last year for which data are available, there were almost 9,000 reported forcible rapes in the State of California, according to the State of California Criminal Justice Statistics Center. Rape kit backlogs continue to plague labs and departments in the state: the Los Angeles Police Department is dealing with a new backlog of kits they’ve been collecting since 2008, despite clearing its backlog of pre-2008 untested kits. The LA Sheriff is hoping to test all of the 5,000 backlogged rape kits under its jurisdiction by June. And according to the CBS report “Rape in America: Justice Denied,” San Diego and Oakland do not track their untested kits; Oakland found almost 500 kits they said should have been tested back in a 2009 count. San Francisco recently passed an ordinance calling for similar actions of Portantino’s state-wide bill: the timely testing and tracking of rape kits.
We will continue to watch the progress of this bill in the California legislature and keep you posted on it here. You can read more on California’s backlog here.