California Bills Seek to Tackle Untested Rape Kit Backlog
Two proposed bills are looking to address the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in California. One of the bills is Senate Bill 1449, authored by state Senator Connie Leyva, who says the bill would change existing law by changing the word “should” to “shall,” when referring to listed time frames for submitting and analyzing rape kit evidence. SB 1449 also requires rape kits to be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after that. Leyva believes this timeline will prevent the backlog from happening in the first place. H.D. Palmer, with the state’s Department of Finance, states,
From a statewide level, we want to make sure that there are adequate resources to ensure that those forensic laboratory activities will be able to continue and not fall behind. A separate, but related issue, is the number of local rape kits that have not been tested yet and that is the focus on the Leyva bill.
The other bill is Assembly Bill 3118, authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, and it is looking to count and track untested kits. According to the Joyful Heart Foundation, a sexual-assault awareness group, an estimated 13,000 rape kits remain untested in California alone. However, Chiu says there’s no official number for exactly how many rape kits are untested. Chiu and Leyva are hopeful that Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised spending plan for the state budget, which calls for more money for the Department of Justice, will mean more money for addressing the sexual assault backlog. We will have to wait and see if the bills are passed.