Florida Attorney General Announces Thousands of Rape Kits Remain Untested Over; A Backlog over Several Years
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi made an announcement early September 2015 shedding light on a considerable backlog of DNA evidence collected as part of sexual assault exams that remain untested. Bondi estimated that thousands of these rape kit DNA samples that span for years have been waiting in line to be tested due to lack of funding and a lack of prioritization of these kits. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay stated that it had over 350 rape cases just in 2015 alone, and the DNA samples collected during a rape kit could help bring in a suspect for sexual crimes and violence.
Florida Legislature: House Bills 179 and 167 Alternative Plans to Deal with Backlog Issue
Two legislative bills, as a result of this announcement, have hit the floor of the Florida legislation and would attempt to make more efficient and faster the system of DNA forensic testing. House Bill 179, filed by House Representative Janet Adkins, requires that the DNA collected from rape kits be tested within 21 days after the law enforcement agency receives the forensic materials or a request has been submitted by the victim, victim’s parent or guardian, or the victim’s personal representative in case he/she is deceased. The bill also requires that the Department of Law Enforcement must, by October 1, 2016, submit a plan outlining the steps needed to be taken to analyze and test all untested sexual assault DNA evidence currently held in the system by June 30, 2017. HB 179, if passed, would go into effect by July 1, 2016.
House Representative Janet Cruz submitted a similar House Bill (#167), which would require all law enforcement agencies to comply with a standardized and formal sexual assault testing policy to ensure that these kits are being tested within a timely manner. The bill provides that anyone who pleads guilty or nolo contendere, or is found to be guilty of, a sexual assault or violent crime, would be required to pay an additional cost for the processing and testing of the DNA evidence related to the case. This sanction would be deposited into a trust fund which would be used to process other forensic medical evidence obtained as a result of a rape kit.
Serious Ramifications of Untested Rape Kits and Other Forensic Evidence
Untested evidence can have serious ramifications, even if the evidence could only identify a suspect rather than assert complete guilt. In a study published by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), it was determined that between the years of 2002-2007, law enforcement had not submitted the forensic evidence in 18 percent of all unresolved sexual assaults and 14 percent of unsolved homicides. Many believe that the inefficiency to submit DNA evidence deals largely in the widespread belief that the evidence would not help in the first place, especially in cases where there is no identified suspect. However, the DNA evidence could be run through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) or the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) which could identify a potential suspect, or else another lead in what would other be a “cold case”.
How Untested DNA Evidence Could Affect You as A Criminal Defendant
Finally, DNA evidence could be the key to freeing a possible defendant who is being charged with a crime. With DNA evidence being considerably useful in determining who committed a crime, on the other hand, it could be significant in determining who did not commit a crime. A criminal defendant who is being tied to a sexual assault or other violent case based on circumstantial evidence could find freedom in tested DNA evidence absolving him/her of the crime.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
If you have been arrested falsely for a sexual assault or other violent crime, DNA evidence could help you get acquitted for the crime. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can provide guidance on how the legal proceedings work, as well as, any defenses available to you. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.