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?
The extent of the untested rape kit backlog in California is unknown. California law does not require that rape kits be inventoried or tested. In 2018, Senator Connie Leyva introduced S.B. 1449, which strengthens existing law by requiring the swift submission and testing of newly collected rape kits and appropriates $2 million to support these reforms. Read Joyful Heart's testimony in support of this bill. Assemblymember David Chiu also introduced A.B. 1138, which mandates a one-time, statewide inventory of untested rape kits.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested rape kits in San Diego to light. Through this request, we uncovered a backlog of 2,873 untested kits in San Diego. In 2015, The Accountability Project issued open records requests to Fresno, Sacramento, and San Jose.
- Between December 2015 and June 2016, Joyful Heart submitted four records request letters to the Fresno Police Department (FPD). FPD has not fully responded to any of our records requests. According to the California Department of Justice, grant funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was partially used to process 561 previously untested rape kits from FPD.
- Through our efforts, we have learned that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) submitted 62% of all rape kits received between 2005 and 2015 to the lab for testing. As of January 2016, SCSD reported 456 untested rape kits. Since 2013, SCSD submits all newly collected kits for testing, and they are in the process of submitting previously untested kits to the lab at this time. Sacramento Police Department (SPD) did not fully respond to our request. SPD stated that they have “no documents responsive” to the total number of kits in their custody, tested or untested. SPD took no additional measures to attempt to provide this information. As such, we were unable to ascertain the number and testing status of rape kits in the custody of SPD.
- The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) has not fully responded to our request. Through our efforts, we discovered that SJPD did not have an evidence tracking system for rape kits until mid-2012, and it appears that SJPD does not know how many rape kits were received into evidence before then. SJPD did report to us that, as of January 1, 2016, the department will submit all newly collected kits to the lab for testing.
In 2003, California enacted a law granting victims the right to be informed whether a DNA profile was obtained from testing their rape kit, the profile was uploaded into the DNA database, and the DNA profile matched another profile in the database. Additionally, victims have the right to know if law enforcement decide not to test a rape kit within established time limits, and must be notified 60 days prior if law enforcement intends to destroy or dispose of such evidence. Victims are also granted the right to designate a sexual assault victim advocate to receive any of the above information.
In 2014, California enacted a law that encourages law enforcement agencies to submit newly collected rape kits for testing within 20 days of being booked into evidence and instructs the crime lab to process rape kit evidence as soon as possible, but no later than 120 days after receiving it. It also requires law enforcement agencies to inform survivors, whether or not the identity of the perpetrator is known, if the law enforcement agency does not analyze the DNA evidence within certain time limits.
In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded funding to several agencies in California:
- The California Department of Justice was awarded $1,606,239 to test 2,000 rape kits statewide;
- The Alameda County District Attorney's Office was awarded $835,830 to test 1,075 rape kits;
- The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office was awarded $1,841,535 to test 2,400 kits; and
- The Riverside Police Department was awarded $433,800 to test 650 kits.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded Orange County $1,864,651 to process nearly 3,600 unprocessed kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors.
In 2016, California enacted a law that requires the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a process for victims to request information about the location and status of their rape kits by July 2018.
In 2017, California enacted multiple rape kit reform laws:
- A.B. 41, which requires law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to use the California Department of Justice (DOJ) SAFE-T evidence system to maintain and update information about the location and testing status of all newly collected rape kits. Additionally, the bill requires the California DOJ to submit an annual report to the legislature summarizing all rape kit data collected within the SAFE-T system the previous year.
- A.B. 1312, which includes provisions strengthening survivors’ rights to notice regarding the location and status of their kits and prohibiting law enforcement agencies from destroying rape kits for at least 20 years.
- A.B. 280, which enables citizens to donate money to test rape kits while filing personal income taxes.
In 2009, Human Rights Watch announced that there were over 12,500 untested rape kits in storage in the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and other police departments in Los Angeles County. All were tested by 2011.
In 2016, California enacted a law requiring the development of a standardized rape kit for use by all jurisdictions across the state.
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