Thursday, March 10, 2016
Bill tackling untested rape kits passes Senate panel
Senate Bill 63 would require Kentucky’s more than 300 police departments and 120 sheriff’s departments to pick up sexual assault kits from hospitals within five days’ notice from a hospital that the evidence is available, submit the kits to the state crime lab with 30 days, prohibit the destruction of any kits and notify victims of the progress and results of the tests.
Additionally, SB 63 would require the average completion date for kits tested not to exceed 90 days by July 2018 and not to exceed 60 days by July 2020. It currently takes about eight months for a kit to be tested once it has been submitted to the lab. The progress of the tests would be reported annually to the Legislative Research Commission.
“During the long but very important process of developing this bill, the working group put together a bill which ensures swift justice for victims, takes criminals off the streets and protects future generations,” said Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, who advocated for the initial audit and sponsored SB 63.
The audit was ordered under Senate Joint Resolution 20 which passed unanimously through both chambers last year. It found law enforcement in possession of 3,090 untested sexual assault kits – some dating back all the way to the 1970s.
SB 63 was amended in committee to provide the state crime lab relief from the testing deadlines if it does not receive additional money to cover the added work. Committee Chairman Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said the governor’s proposed budget includes $4.5 million needed to do the additional testing but the General Assembly has yet approved a budget.
“Since we don’t yet know if that is going to stay, or how much it will be if it does stay, I wanted to make sure we didn’t hold the lab accountable to a timeline that they couldn’t meet today if they had to and wouldn’t be able to meet by 2018 and 2020 unless they have the additional resources they needed,” said Westerfield, a former prosecutor.
SB 63 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.