SAN DIEGO–California State Senate has passed important legislation that will require law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to promptly analyze and test all newly collected rape kit evidence in California.
SB 1449 is sponsored by the Joyful Heart Foundation and is strongly supported by District Attorney Summer Stephan and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. It follows federal best practices and ensures that victims reporting sexual assault across California will have equal access to swift submission and analysis of forensic evidence associated with their cases.
“Protecting victims of sexual assault and leveraging every tool to bring their abusers to justice has been my mission for over a decade,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “I’ve prioritized the testing of rape kits, including those committed by known perpetrators, and worked to identify funding and get the process moving as quickly as possible. The kits may contain powerful evidence that can speak on behalf of victims and prevent a future assault.”
In order to prevent the development of backlogs of forensic evidence in evidence rooms or laboratories, newly collected rape kits must be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt. Promptly testing DNA evidence in rape kits can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
The bill now advances to the Assembly.
Earlier this year, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, working with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, proactively contracted with a highly-respected, internationally accredited, private DNA lab to test approximately 1,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits in order to identify offenders who may potentially be linked to other sexual assaults. As of today, 400 rape kits have been sent to the lab for testing and the first results are beginning to be provided.