Thursday, September 17, 2015

Two bills filed in Legislature to deal with rape-kit backlog in Florida

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 12:05 PM

click image VIA MSNBC.COM
  • via msnbc.com


Two state legislators have filed bills this week that attempt to address the rape-kit backlog in the state of Florida. Earlier this month, Attorney General Pam Bondi held a press conference at which she announced that she'd be making a push to see that the state's backlog of "thousands" of untested rape kits is handled. Both of the two bills filed in the Legislature, one by Republican Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, and one by Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, would attempt to prevent this kind of backlog (which is not unique to Florida, by the way – there are an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits gathering dust on shelves across the country) from happening again. 

HB 179, filed by Adkins, would require that DNA evidence collected in sexual assault cases be sent to a lab for testing within 21 days of being collected, and it asks the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to come up with a plan for making that happen. It also tasks the FDLE with submitting a plan to the governor and Legislature for testing all backlogged kits – that plan would be due June 30, 2017. The FDLE has been the recipient of funding from both the state, which allocated $300,000 in its 2015 budget for the department to study the situation, and Manhattan Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., who  just awarded more than $1.2 million to test some 2,000 backlogged kits. 

HB 167, filed by Cruz, asks that by Jan. 1, 2017, every law enforcement agency in the state "adopt a policy concerning the handling and submission for processing of forensic medical evidence collected in connection with an alleged sexual assault." The policies, the bill notes, should ensure that all evidence be processed and results returned to the agency "no later than 12 months after the date of the alleged sexual assault." 

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