Legislation to Audit Backlog of Untested Rape Kits Passes Assembly

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bill will complete a statewide audit of all backlogged sexual assault evidence kits

SACRAMENTO--A bill by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to address the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits passed the Assembly today. The measure, Assembly Bill 3118, will require a statewide audit of all untested rape kits in California.

“Sexual assault survivors deserve justice, and a rape kit sitting on a shelf collecting dust is not justice,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “To truly address the backlog, we need to know how many untested kits exist in California, and we must test all kits moving forward to ensure we do not increase that backlog.”

Assembly Bill 3118 would 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.

Federal funding is available to local law enforcement agencies through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative for the purpose of testing sexual assault evidence kits, but localities need to know the number of untested kits before applying for those funds.

This effort comes 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 existing law encourages law enforcement to test kits in a timely manner, how different agencies interpret and implement this legislative guidance varies significantly.

AB 3118 was introduced alongside Senator Connie M. Leyva’s SB 1449, which will require the testing of all new sexual assault evidence kits. SB 1449 will require that law enforcement agencies submit evidence collected to a laboratory within 20 days and laboratories process that evidence within 120 days following receipt.

“Together, SB 1449 and AB 3118 will help ensure that we continue to stand on the side of justice for rape victims in California,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva. “I look forward to working with Assemblymember Chiu on these important bills that will protect public safety and solidify California’s leadership in helping victims of rape and sexual assault.”

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

"Access to justice for sexual assault survivors in California should not depend on a zip code,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “Despite being among the first states to uncover this issue almost a decade ago, cities across the state have historically engaged in inconsistent efforts at reform and transparency. We are proud to endorse these bills - introduced by Senator Leyva and Assemblymember Chiu - that will finally bring transparency to rape kit handling procedures in California and uncover the true scope of the problem. Only with statewide reform will law enforcement agencies be required to account for and test the rape kits in their custody; and when the extent of a jurisdiction’s backlog is revealed, real reform can begin."

“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.”

AB 3118 now moves on to the Senate.