In September 2011, Texas followed Illinois’s lead by enacting legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to submit sexual assault evidence to a crime lab for analysis within 30 days of receipt. Under the law, "[i]f sufficient personnel and resources are available, a public accredited crime laboratory as soon as practicable shall complete its analysis of sexual assault evidence."
As for the untested kits that were already part of the state’s backlog, law enforcement agencies were to provide a list of active criminal cases for which rape kits had not yet been submitted for analysis to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) by October 15, 2011. The agencies were then required to submit all of those untested kits to a laboratory by April 1, 2012. The law did not allocate new funding for this testing process.
Two weeks after the October 15, 2011 deadline for law enforcement agencies to count untested rape kits, fewer than five percent of agencies delivered their totals to DPS. Among the 81 agencies that did, there were 5,496 untested kits and other pieces of evidence. That number was lower than the backlog in Houston alone, where there were 6,600 untested kits. Three months later, in early 2012, just 86 of the state’s 2,647 law enforcement agencies had reported their backlogs.
By early 2013—more than a year after the October 2011 deadline to report numbers and more than six months after the April 2012 deadline to submit untested kits—approximately 130 agencies had reported their backlog numbers, including many of the biggest agencies, such as San Antonio and El Paso.
Among the reporting agencies, there were 15,900 untested rape kits. Based on that number, DPS estimated there to be roughly 20,000 untested kits statewide, and that it would cost between $7 million and $11 million to clear the backlog completely. In an effort to move forward with that goal, the state legislature included $10.8 million for processing untested rape kits in its budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
The legislature also enacted a law to give survivors greater access to the rape kit testing process. In June 2013, lawmakers added to the state’s crime victims bill of rights that if requested, a survivor has a right to information regarding the status of any testing of her or his rape kit, including submission of the kit to a crime lab, comparison of evidence with profiles in a DNA database and results of the comparison, unless the disclosure will interfere with the investigation of the assault.
Learn more about Texas's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.