Bill ending rape kit backlog passes

Posted at 10:59 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 08:09:15-05

Legislation to speed up the processing of nearly 10,000 rape testing kits statewide passed the Florida Senate Wednesday.

"It won't be done in a week, but it will be done as soon as humanly possible," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers).

A state audit last year found there were 13,000 unprocessed kits statewide, including 500 in Lee County.

The bill provides that any DNA evidence collected in a sexual assault investigation must be submitted to a member of the statewide criminal analysis laboratory system for forensic testing within 30 days after the forensic evidence is received by a law enforcement agency, or earlier if the request is made by a victim. The kit must then be tested with 120 days from submission.

Counselors with the Abuse Crisis and Treatment Center in Ft. Myers say this legislation will help law enforcement crack unsolved rape cases.

Community Education Coordinator Colleen Henderson says not all rape survivors want to press charges, but crisis counselors believe this bill will encourage them to come forward knowing they could help others.

 "Now they can look into it and go to the people who are connected to those kits, and say he look, we have four of you now, and it's the same person.  Are you willing to come forward?"

The House needs to approve the bill before Governor Scott can sign it into law.