BILL WOULD REQUIRE EVIDENCE TESTING
(AUSTIN) — Police departments would be required to process all rape kits in a more timely manner under a bill approved by the Senate on Thursday. Rape kits are used to collect physical specimens from persons who report a sexual assault in an effort to build a forensic case against suspects. Ft. Worth Senator Wendy Davis said that there are more than 20,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in urban police departments around the state.
Her bill, SB 1636, would direct police stations to submit those kits to accredited crime labs by April 1, 2012, for testing. Those results would then be compared with state and federal evidence databases to find any potential suspects. Davis said that when Ft. Worth started testing its 4,000 kit backlog and submitted evidence taken to those databases, they found 207 suspects, including five serial rapists.
Under SB 1636, any future rape kits submitted to law enforcement would have to go to a lab within 30 days, and would give the labs 90 days to return results. The Legislative Budget Board estimated these requirements would cost the state about $23 million over the next two years, so the bill was amended to only go into effect if lawmakers appropriate money for it in the state budget.
Criminal Justice Committee Chair Senator John Whitmire of Houston rose to praise Davis for her legislation. He has worked with other members of the Houston delegation to deal with the backlog of kit testing in Harris County, and he said this bill will help to bring rapists to justice. "I want to complement you for a really good piece of legislation that will make a difference on this problem," he said.
The Senate will reconvene Friday, May 6 at 10 a.m.