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?
In January 2017, the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee in the Attorney General's Office released a report that found 3,700 untested rape kits statewide. Maryland law does not require law enforcement agencies to test rape kits. In January 2019, the Committee released a report citing over 6,000 untested rape kits in the state.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested kits in Baltimore to light. In response to our request, Joyful Heart received contradictory information from the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore Police Department Crime Lab. In August 2016, the Department of Justice found that, between 2010 and 2014, the Baltimore Police Department tested rape kits in just 15% of sexual assault cases, and otherwise systematically failed sexual assault survivors.
In 2015, Maryland enacted a law requiring law enforcement agencies to conduct a one-time audit of untested rape kits. This audit identified 3,700 untested rape kits across the state, as reported by the State Attorney General in 2017.
That same year, Maryland also enacted a law requiring health care professionals to provide victims with the investigating law enforcement agency’s contact information to inquire about the status of their case. The law requires law enforcement to inform a victim about the status of the rape kit testing and all available results, upon the victim’s request.
In 2017, Maryland enacted a law requiring law enforcement and other agencies to preserve all newly collected rape kits for 20 years following collection, notify survivors at least 60 days before planned kit destruction, and keep kits for longer, upon written request. The law also grants survivors the right to receive, within 30 days of request, information about the location and status of their kits. Read Joyful Heart's testimony in support.
In 2018, Maryland enacted a law requiring the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) Policy and Funding Committee to develop recommendations to create and operate a statewide rape kit tracking system that will be accessible to victims of sexual assault.
Also in 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention $2,620,408 to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors in the criminal justice system.
In 2019, legislators introduced a bill that would establish the Rape Kit Testing Grant Fund to pay for testing rape kits. The state legislature would appropriate money to go towards the fund, and the Maryland Department of State Police would administer grants to law enforcement agencies to pay for kit testing. These funds would supplement other funding appropriated to test kits and would not supplant it.
Legislators in 2019 introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to submit rape kits to a crime lab for testing unless there is clear evidence disproving the allegation, the kit contains an insufficient amount of evidence for forensic analysis to be performed, or the suspect is in the national DNA database and admitted to consensual sex with the victim during the incident. Law enforcement would be required to submit all other kits for analysis within 30 days of receipt, and a lab would be required to test kits within 150 days of receipt from law enforcement. (*Note: There are two identical bills S.B. 767 is in the Senate, and H.B.1096 is in the House of Delegates.) Read Joyful Heart’s testimony.
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