BOISE — A bill moving through the House would require all law enforcement agencies in Idaho to track the number of rape kits they collect and the number of kits they choose not to submit.
The bill proposed by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, came before the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee Monday.
Currently in Idaho, if a law enforcement agency determines no crime has been committed or the case is no longer being investigated as a crime, the kit may not be sent to a laboratory for testing. Kits are also not submitted for testing if a victim decides he or she does not want the kit tested.
The legislation would add the circumstance that if an officer were to choose not to submit a sexual assault evidence kit for testing, the county prosecutor must independently review law enforcement’s decision.
The bill would not, however, mandate testing of all kits.
Currently, there is no statute in place with regulations on when a kit must be tested or how records should be tracked by a law enforcement agency.
The Idaho State Police Forensic Services Lab policy states that whether a kit is submitted to the lab for testing is up to the individual law enforcement agency.
If the bill passes, when law enforcement decides to test a kit, the policy would mandate that the rape or sexual assault kit in question be submitted to the Idaho State Police lab in Meridian within 30 days of obtaining the kit, and the lab must have the kit tested and submitted to the Idaho DNA database within 90 days.
Wintrow said an additional $207,000 would be allotted to the ISP lab to support the cost of testing the kits in a timely manner. ISP would be responsible for distributing kit materials to agencies that do the testing, such as hospitals, and all kits would have a serial number on them to aide in tracking.
If the bill becomes law, the lab has 180 days to submit a report to the Legislature with information from all law enforcement agencies in Idaho for a one-time audit. The audit would include the following information from Idaho law enforcement agencies:
1. The number of untested kits in the law enforcement agency’s possession.
2. The date each kit was collected and the reason it was not submitted to the ISP lab for testing.
3. The number of any anonymous or unreported kits in the law enforcement agency’s possession.
If the bill becomes law, every year on or before Jan. 20, including Jan. 20, 2017, ISP must submit a report to legislators regarding the number of kits purchased and distributed, the number of used kits collected by each law enforcement agency, the number of kits tested by the lab, and the number of kits not submitted to the ISP lab. The report would also include the number of any DNA database hits from the sexual assault cases. Neither the victims’ names nor the suspects’ names would be included in the report.
The draft states that the yearly report from ISP would be made accessible on the agency’s website and would be readily available to the public.
Wintrow said the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association and the Sheriffs’ Association were in support of the changes, and the ISP lab supported the legislation drafted. She said most of the language within the draft was written in consultation with ISP.
The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee will meet again Wednesday.