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Bill May Force California To Deal With Huge Backlog Of Rape Kits

Holly Quan
August 28, 2018 - 10:22 am
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No one knows exactly how many untested rape kits are languishing across the state, but the number is in the thousands. 

Now, a bill by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu would require all of those untested kits to be counted up and reported by the end of next July. A companion bill, by Senator Connie Leyva of Chino, would require all new rape kits be submitted to a laboratory within 20 days of being collected, and processed within 120 days. 

Currently, there's no mandate for the timely testing of these DNA samples that could potentially identify attackers. The current state budget allocates $7.5 million to help pay for it, but law enforcement agencies say they simply don't have the money or manpower to get the job done. 

To Chiu, that's not acceptable. "Victim survivors are denied justice, criminals roam free, and someone who is actually innocent could be denied exoneration," he said in support of his bill. "While our state has started to address the rape kit backlog, there is so much left to do, and we are behind other states in terms of reform." 

A tally would not only reveal just how big the backlog is, it would also give the state an idea of how far back those kits go, and how long victims have been waiting for justice.

"We need this information because we don't know the size of the rape kit backlog in California. While there are some estimates that it is at least 13,000, we don't know what the answer is." Chiu said. "This is not how the largest state in the country should handle this evidence."

Similar legislation has failed in the past. But pressure to get rape kits tested has been building in the wake of the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer in April, with the public becoming more focused on the importance of DNA evidence in nabbing and convicting criminals. Chiu's bill went unopposed through the legislature. Governor Brown now has until September 30 to sign it. 

Written by Diana Shook