Proposed law aims to end backlog of untested rape kits - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Proposed law aims to end backlog of untested rape kits

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California lawmakers say too many rape kits are being placed into storage without being tested by forensics. Senate Bill 1449 aims to change that.

The big change to the current law comes in the form of one word.

The current law says rape kits should be cleared within 120 days. Legislation proposed by state Sen. Connie Leyva changes the word should to shall, requiring newly collected rape kits to be submitted to a lab within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt.

"Every 120 days, if they haven't reported to the Department of Justice, they'll get ahold of them and say, 'What's the status of this rape kit?'" said Lt. John Bledsoe with San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Rape kits are used to collect DNA evidence from the victim after a report of sexual assault or rape. It's evidence that may help solve a crime.

San Luis Obispo police have several kits locked in storage that have already been tested.

"It's not a backlog problem, it's a storage issue. We hold on to the rape kits as long as the case is active," says Lt. Bledsoe.

Supporters of the bill say it's hard enough for victims of sexual abuse to come forward, so when they do, they should be taken seriously.

"It takes a lot of effort to say, 'This happened to me,' and to have the courage to even come forward," said Beth Bolyard, an Atascadero resident.

In a statement, Sen. Leyva says, in part: 

"It's critical that rape kits are processed swiftly to both attain justice and help identify and prosecute rapists so that we can keep them off the streets."

The proposed bill would appropriate $2 million from the state's general fund to help with the associated costs.

Sen. Leyva also authored the law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape and to criminalize sextortion.

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