All rape kits must be tested in 'timely manner' under new AZ lawPosted: Updated:
All rape kits must be tested "in a timely manner" thanks to a new law just signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
The new measure ensures that Arizona's law enforcement agencies will have the money to test those kits. There is a massive backlog right now. Thousands of rape kits, evidence in countless cases, are sitting on shelves in evidence lockers.
“When tested, DNA evidence contained inside rape kits is an invaluable investigative tool to solve and prevent crime,” explains EndTheBacklog.org. “It can identify an unknown assailant, reveal serial offenders, and bring opportunities for justice and healing to survivors.”
The governor’s office says Arizona’s newly signed law should not only ensure that all rape kits are tested going forward but also help investigators clear those old cases.
It was DNA evidence from an old rape kit that led the Phoenix Police Department to identify another victim of the Baseline Killer, Mark Goudeau.
Convicted of nine murders and 15 sexual assaults in a crime spree that happened in 2005 and 2006, Goudeau is on death row.
While Goudeau cannot be charged with the 1985 rape police are sure he committed – the statute of limitations for rape was five years at the time – investigators were able to tell the then-22-year-old victim that her assailant is behind bars. Her case, now closed, went unsolved for three decades because her rape kit was never processed.
Arizona has since revised its law so that there is no time limitation for prosecuting felony sexual offenses. (ARS §13-107)
The new law
HB 2268, which Ducey signed into law Tuesday, was sponsored by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) and received unanimous support in the House and Senate. Under this new law, a health care facilities must notify law enforcement within 24 hours of collected a rape kit. Once notified, law enforcement agencies have five business days to take possession of the evidence. That kit then must be submitted to a crime lab within 15 days.
"Crime laboratories must process evidence as soon as is practicable and run gathered evidence through DNA databases at the municipal, state, and federal levels," Matthew Specht of the House Majority Staff explained in an email.
- 24 hours for health care facilities to notify law enforcement that a rape kit has been collected
- 5 business days for law enforcement to take possession of evidence
- 15 days business days to submit sex assault kit to crime lab
“The bill also requires annual reporting detailing the number of kits processed and explanations for any untested kits,” according to the governor’s office.
“It's unconscionable and unacceptable that rape kits haven’t been tested in a timely manner," Syms said in a prepared statement. "This new law will give dignity and justice to victims and will make our communities safer by getting violent offenders off the streets. I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for passing this important legislation and thank Governor Ducey for signing it into law."
The issue of untested rape kits has been high on Ducey’s agenda, so much so that he put together a special task force in January 2016 to handle the backlog.
Within months every law enforcement agency in the state was actively searching for untested sex assault kits. In June 2016, there were at least 4,000 such kits. And that was just in Maricopa County.
Ducey's Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force issued a report and a series of recommendations, including a “test all” policy for local jurisdictions, in mid-October.
“We’re on our way to testing every evidence kit in the state,” Senator Katie Hobbs, a member of the task force, said at the time.
Just days earlier, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and the Phoenix Police Department received a federal grant specifically to alleviate the backlog of untested sex assault kits.
Ducey also mentioned the effort to clear the backlog and reiterated his commitment to providing the necessary funding in his State of the State address.
"My budget fully funds the testing of all remaining rape kits," he said. "And with the recommendations of our task force, we are ready to move forward with legislation requiring all future kits to be tested.
“Let’s get this done -- and, for the thousands of women who have been victimized, finally ensure justice."
The backlog of untested rape kits is not just an Arizona issue.
“It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the United States,” according to EndTheBacklog.org.
By signing HB 2268 into law, Ducey has made it clear that Arizona will be part of the solution to this ongoing problem.
Glad to sign bipartisan legislation today to bring justice to victims of sexual assault in Arizona https://t.co/fhxi3bMgth— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) March 22, 2017
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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