June Update: State Legislative Reform in 2018

In April, we provided a snapshot of rape kit reform across the country. Since then, many state legislatures have wrapped up for the year. Let’s take a look at how rape kit reform has fared across the country and which states are enacting Joyful Heart’s six pillars.

New Rape Kit Reform Laws

Governors have signed rape kit reform bills in 11 states, demonstrating broad support for reform.

  • Connecticut Public Act No. 18-83. This law requires a statewide rape kit tracking system to be created and also ensures sexual assault survivors can access information about the testing status of their rape kit.
  • Indiana Act No. 264Indiana will study the feasibility of a statewide rape kit tracking system under this new law.
  • Louisiana Act No. 354. With this law, the state created the Louisiana Sexual Assault Oversight Commission to recommend a standardized kit as well as statewide protocols for forensic medical examinations. The Attorney General is required to ensure the recommendations are implemented.
  • Maryland Chapter 429. This law requires the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) Policy and Funding Committee to make recommendations on the creation of a rape kit tracking system accessible to victims of sexual assault. The law also requires the committee to apply for federal funds to advance rape kit reform.
  • Massachusetts Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2018. This is a comprehensive law mandating an annual inventory of rape kits, the timely testing of newly collected rape kits, and the testing of backlogged kits. The new law also establishes a statewide tracking system and grants victims the right to know the testing status of their rape kit.
  • Minnesota S.F. No. 2863. This law grants victims the right to notification about their rape kit testing status, increases evidence retention protections, and strengthens requirements for submitting rape kits.
  • Missouri H.B. No. 1355. Under this law, law enforcement must retrieve rape kits from hospitals within 14 days and submit them to a lab for testing within 14 days of taking possession of the kit. Additionally, a rape kit tracking system will be created to follow kits from collection to disposition and allow survivors access to monitor the status of their kit.
  • New Hampshire S.B. 391. Under this bill, survivors would be informed of policies for kit collection and preservation upon written request, receive notice within 60 days of the kit’s planned disposal, and be able to expand the kit preservation period.
  • New York S7507C. The state health and mental hygiene budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year expands the retention period for an unreported kit to 20 years and mandates victim notification in advance of planned kit destruction.
  • Oregon Chapter 55, (2018 Laws). This law requires the creation and implementation of a statewide tracking system. The system must track kits from collection throughout the criminal justice process, and allow sexual assault survivors anonymous access to track the status of their kit.
  • West Virginia Chapter 207, Acts, Regular Session, 2018. Under this law, the Sexual Assault Forensic Commission will establish best practice protocols for handling rape kits, including timeframes for submission and storage.

On the Governor’s Desk

Five more bills are awaiting a governor’s signature. We urge these governors to take action as soon as possible.

  • Alaska H.B. 31. This bill would require Alaska to conduct annual inventories, helping the state monitor progress on testing 3,484 untested kits identified through a one-time inventory in 2017.
  • Alaska S.B. 142. The Alaska capital budget bill allocates $2.75 million to test every rape kit in Alaska. This would be the state’s most significant investment in eliminating the backlog to date.
  • Hawai‘i H.B.2131. This bill would grant essential rights to sexual assault survivors, direct all counties to track rape kits, mandate kits be submitted to the lab and tested within specific deadlines, and establish annual reporting mechanisms to increase accountability and transparency in rape kit handling.
  • New York S.8977. This bill would establish a sexual assault victim bill of rights which would include the right to, upon request, be informed of the date and location at which the kit was analyzed, be informed whether there was a DNA match in the national database, and be notified at least 90 days before the expiration of the 20-year storage period.
  • North Carolina H.B. 945. This legislation would require the creation of a rape kit tracking system to track the 15,160 untested rape kits identified in a statewide inventory earlier this year. All newly collected kits would be tracked as well, and the bill would also allow survivors to access the system to monitor the location and testing status of their kit.

All over the country, supporters of rape kit reform are making a difference. Since January 2018, 44 rape kit reform bills have been introduced in 24 states. Our results this year make it clear reform is possible—and overdue. We’ll keep working with survivors, advocates, state legislators, agency leaders, labs, and law enforcement to continue offering a path to justice for thousands of sexual assault survivors in 2018 and beyond.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RAPE KIT REFORM IN YOUR STATE

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