Amid National Conversation on Sexual Assault Governor Signs Bill to Address Backlog of Untested Rape Kits

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Legislation will audit all backlogged sexual assault evidence kits in California

SACRAMENTO--A bill by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to address the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today. The measure, AB 3118, will require a statewide audit of all untested rape kits in California.

“The rape kit backlog is an embarrassment,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “I welcome Governor Brown recognition of the dire need to understand the extent of the rape kit backlog in California. Given the current national conversation around sexual assault, it is more important now than ever that survivors of sexual assault know that California is working to get them the justice they deserve.”

Assembly Bill 3118 will require a one-time, statewide audit of California’s rape kit backlog by requiring all agencies that receive, maintain, or preserve sexual assault evidence kits to survey all kits in the agencies’ possession and report those findings to the California Department of Justice. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to report the findings of the audit to the Legislature. 

AB 3118 was introduced alongside Senator Connie M. Leyva’s SB 1449, which still awaits action by the Governor. SB 1449 will mandate the testing of all newly collected rape kits by requiring law enforcement agencies submit evidence collected to a laboratory within 20 days and laboratories process that evidence within 120 days following receipt. 

These efforts come amidst the national uproar around the mismanagement of sexual assault evidence kits and what is known as the “rape kit backlog.” Some jurisdictions have worked to decrease their backlogs to varying degrees, but there is currently no comprehensive data available in California about the number of sexual assault evidence kits that remain untested. While prior a law encouraged law enforcement to test kits in a timely manner, how different agencies have interpreted and implemented this legislative guidance varied significantly.

Assemblymember Chiu and Senator Leyva were able to secure resources in the State budget to fund these initiatives. One million dollars will be available to fund an audit of untested rape kits, and $6.5 million will be used to test both backlogged and newly collected kits.  

The Joyful Heart Foundation, Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, and Natasha’s Justice Project sponsored both AB 3118 and SB 1449.

"The implementation of this bill will fundamentally alter the landscape of the national rape kit backlog. Today, we are a significant step closer to understanding the reality of California's untested sexual assault kit inventory, which is the largest state in the country without an accurate count," said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “For too long, the extent of California's rape kit backlog has been unknown, stalling justice for survivors and allowing predators to remain free."

“Thank you to Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Connie Leyva for their leadership on this important public safety legislation,” said Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “The prompt testing and effective tracking of rape kits will bring justice to sexual assault victims throughout our state.”

“My rape kit went untested for nearly a decade while the man that raped me a gun point continued his crime spree across the nation,” said Natasha Alexenko, Founder of Natasha’s Justice Project. “I have the deepest respect for the community leaders, elected officials and survivors whose altruism and dedication towards this issue should serve as an inspiration to all.”

AB 3118 will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

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