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 2011, Texas became the second state to enact a law requiring law enforcement agencies to send all newly collected kits to a crime lab for testing within 30 days. The law directed the lab to test the kits as soon as is feasible. The law also required law enforcement agencies to count the untested rape kits in their storage facilities and to have them analyzed by September 2014. As of August 2017, local law enforcement agencies have submitted 18,955 untested kits to the state lab for testing under this law, of which 2,138 remain to be tested.
In 2013, Texas legislators amended the crime victims' bill of rights to grant survivors of sexual assault the right to access information about the location and status of their rape kits. That year, legislators also appropriated $11,000,000 in funding to test backlogged kits.
In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded the Austin Police Department $1,994,648 to test 3,070 rape kits; the Jefferson County Regional Crime Laboratory was awarded $789,223 to test 1,300 rape kits; and the Travis County Sheriff's Office was awarded $97,305 to test 148 rape kits. Also, in 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded Dallas County $1,599,170 to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors.
In 2016, the BJA awarded Dallas County an additional $1,000,000 to sustain this work.
In 2017, Texas enacted multiple rape kit reform laws:
- H.B. 1729, establishing a voluntary donation program for driver's license applications to fund the testing of rape kits. Read our letters of support.
- H.B. 3152, strengthening access to high-quality medical forensic exams for survivors of sexual assault. Read our letter of support.
- H.B. 281, requiring the establishment of a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system enabling sexual assault survivors to anonymously track or receive updates regarding the status of their kits. Read our testimony in support of H.B. 281.
In 2017, with the enactment of a tracking system law, Texas became the first state in the country to enact all six pillars of comprehensive rape kit reform, including laws requiring an audit, testing of backlogged kits, testing of newly collected kits, tracking of kits, victims' right to notice provisions, and funding for rape kit reform. Legislators also appropriated $4.2 million in the 2017 budget (Article V, Section 57) to test backlogged kits.
In 2017, the BJA awarded the City of Austin $2 million to support local efforts to inventory and test kits, investigate and prosecute resulting cases, and support survivor re-engagement efforts.
In 2018, BJA awarded the City of Austin $1 million to sustain their work. BJA additionally awarded Dallas County $1.83 million to continue their work. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded the Texas Department of Public Safety $187,092 to implement an evidence management program to inventory, track, and report untested kits.
In 2019, Texas continued improving its rape kit handling laws and enacted H.B. 8, establishing a time frame for the submission and analysis of newly collected kits. Law enforcement agencies are required to collect kits from medical facilities within seven to 14 days, depending on the distance between the agency and the medical facility. Crime labs are required to test kits within 90 days of receipt from law enforcement. The law also mandates law enforcement to take an inventory of all rape kits in the state with a report due December 2019. Law enforcement agencies must submit any kits from active investigations to a crime lab by January 2020. Furthermore, the bill prohibits law enforcement agencies from destroying rape kits related to an unchanged or unsolved case for 40 years and requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop a protocol for notifying victims before planned destruction of their kit. Finally, it extends the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases when forensic evidence has not been tested or no match on the database has occurred.
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