Rape Kits Hearing

In this file photo, Rep. Melissa Wintrow speaks during a House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee hearing on her sponsored bill on rape kit testing which will mandate untested rape kits to be tracked and have law enforcement track how many kits go untested.

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BOISE — The Gem State’s first legislation regarding rape kit testing was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Butch Otter.

House Bill 528, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, will mandate all law enforcement agencies track the number of sexual assault evidence kits collected and report the number of kits that go untested. The bill does not mandate all kits be tested.

Rape kits are used during an exam preformed on an alleged victim after a sexual assault in an effort to find DNA evidence.

Before the legislation was signed, Idaho State Police had a policy in place including two reasons a kit may not be submitted to a lab — if a victim requests his or her kit not be tested or if law enforcement determines no crime has been committed.

The legislation will also implement deadlines for how quickly a kit must be submitted and tested.

The law mandates that each law enforcement agency, if they choose to test a kit, must deliver it to the lab within 30 days. The lab would then have 90 days to test the kit and enter any discovered DNA codes into a national database.

If the police agency decides not to test a kit, a county prosecutor must also sign off on the decision.

ISP’s lab will be allotted $222,300 to pay for additional staff and needed resources. Every year after the first year the law is implemented, another $207,300 would be needed by ISP’s lab.

The legislation was drafted after series of stories last fall in the Idaho Press-Tribune that found the submission of rape kits for testing varied widely among each law enforcement agency, ranging from 10 percent in Nampa up to 80 percent in Meridian.

Other agencies estimated it would take days to answer the question of why some kits collected into evidence went untested.

The Idaho State Police Forensic Services lab in Meridian is responsible for testing all rape kits for evidence, with the exception of some sent to the FBI lab.

This law mandates that every year, on or before Jan. 20, including Jan. 20, 2017, ISP must submit to legislators information on 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.

Ruth Brown is the public safety and digital first reporter. Contact her at 465-8105 or rbrown@idahopress.com. Follow @RuthBrownNews.

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