Inslee signs bill requiring law enforcement agencies to ask for testing of rape kits
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A new state law will require law enforcement agencies in Washington to request testing of all future sexual assault exam kits.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1068 Thursday, and supporters say the change will help catch criminals and bring justice to victims, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported (http://bit.ly/1d09pCU).
Rape kits contain swabs and other tools used to collect DNA samples and other evidence from rape victims. They are stocked by police departments and hospitals, and are intended for use immediately after a rape has occurred.
But, the News Tribune said, once the evidence is collected, rape kits often languish in storage, a problem both nationwide and in Washington state. Earlier this year, the State Patrol estimated that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 untested rape kits in Washington, though the precise number of unanalyzed kits isn’t known.
The Seattle Police Department announced in January it would begin testing more than 1,200 rape kits that had gone untested in the past 10 years.
The measure, which takes effect July 23, requires agencies to submit a request for testing within 30 days after receiving a rape kit, unless a victim objects to the evidence being used in an investigation.
According to the News Tribune, state Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who sponsored the legislation, said the goal is not only to empower rape victims but also to help police identify serial rapists who may strike again.