Does California law require...
An Audit of Untested Rape Kits?
Tracking of Rape Kits?
Testing of all backlogged rape kits?
Testing of all rape kits in the future?
Victims to be notified of the status of their cases?
Funding for testing kits?
The extent of the untested rape kit backlog in California is unknown. California law does not require law enforcement agencies to count, track, or test rape kits.
In 2009, Human Rights Watch announced that there were over 12,500 untested rape kits in storage in the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and other police departments in Los Angeles County. All were tested by 2011.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested rape kits in San Diego to light. Through this request, we uncovered a backlog of 2,873 untested kits in San Diego. In 2015, The Accountability Project issued open records requests to Fresno, Sacramento, and San Jose. Through our efforts, we have learned that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) submitted 62% of all rape kits received between 2005 and 2015 to the lab for testing. As of January 2016, SCSD reported 456 untested rape kits. Since 2013, SCSD submits all newly collected kits for testing, and they are in the process of submitting previously untested kits to the lab at this time. Sacramento Police Department (SPD) did not fully respond to our request. SPD stated that they have “no documents responsive” to the total number of kits in their custody, tested or untested. SPD took no additional measures to attempt to provide this information. As such, we were unable to ascertain the number and testing status of rape kits in the custody of SPD. To date, we have not received complete responses from Fresno or San Jose.
In 2003, California enacted a law granting victims the right to be informed whether a DNA profile was obtained from testing their rape kit, the profile was uploaded into the DNA database, and the DNA profile matched another profile in the database. Additionally, victims have the right to know if law enforcement decide not to test a rape kit within established time limits, and must be notified 60 days prior if law enforcement intends to destroy or dispose of such evidence. Victims are also granted the right to designate a sexual assault victim advocate to receive any of the above information.
In 2014, California enacted a law that encourages law enforcement agencies to submit newly collected rape kits for testing within 20 days of being booked into evidence and instructs the crime lab to process rape kit evidence as soon as possible, but no later than 120 days after receiving it. It also requires law enforcement agencies to inform survivors, whether or not the identity of the perpetrator is known, if the law enforcement agency does not analyze the DNA evidence within certain time limits.
In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded funding to several agencies in California:
- The California Department of Justice was awarded $1,606,239 to test 2,000 rape kits statewide;
- The Alameda County District Attorney's Office was awarded $835,830 to test 1,075 rape kits;
- The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office was awarded $1,841,535 to test 2,400 kits; and
- The Riverside Police Department was awarded $433,800 to test 650 kits.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded Orange County $1,864,651 to process nearly 3,600 unprocessed kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors.
In 2016, California enacted a law that requires the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a process for victims to request information about the location and status of their rape kits by July 2018. Read our letter of support.
In 2017, California legislators introduced a bill that would require law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to use the California DOJ SAFE-T evidence system to maintain and update information about the location and testing status of all newly collected rape kits. Additionally, the bill would require the California DOJ to submit an annual report to the legislature summarizing all rape kit data collected within the SAFE-T system the previous year.
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