Rape kit legislation establishes statewide procedures

Bill responds to almost 3,000 untested rape kits discovered in 2015

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Enright said she thought the governor’s order was a shocking move especially since it came right in the middle of his term.

Marshall Bronfin | Cavalier Daily

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two bills into law that establish procedures for the handling of physical evidence recovery kits for victims of sexual assault April 14.

Senate Bill 291 and House Bill 1160 include regulations such as mandatory submissions, time frames, storage specifications and exceptions as well as victim notification rights.

An audit last year by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science discovered nearly 3,000 untested physical evidence recovery kits — most related to sexual assault and rape cases — in the custody of law enforcement agencies across the state, according to a press release from McAuliffe’s office.

Previously, McAuliffe held a workgroup led by Brian Moran, secretary of public safety and homeland security, which encouraged both survivors and law enforcement to recommend a consistent and timely process for handling physical evidence kits.

“From day one, the health and safety of Virginia’s women has been a chief priority of our administration. That is why I created and enabled a group of leaders and advocates to offer solutions to enhance the services and protections this Commonwealth offers to survivors of sexual violence," McAuliffe said in the press release.

Sen. Richard Black (R-District 13) proposed the bipartisan legislation in the Senate.

“As former chief of the Criminal Law Division at the Pentagon, I know that SB291 will insure (sic) that serial rapists are effectively identified and prosecuted,” Black said in a statement.

The bill is projected to double the number of tests performed annually and create a process for survivors to follow the status and results and their tests. In response to the likely increase in tests, the new state budget includes $900,000 annually to hire six new DNA examiners.

According to the press release, a portion of the new funds will be used in the first year to outsource testing while new staff members are being trained.

“The survivors of these malicious crimes are trusting in us to provide a full accounting of these cases and to bring perpetrators to justice,” McAuliffe said. “To ensure their safety, it is vital that we have all areas of law enforcement, government, and private organizations working together. The measures signed today provide a permanent and coherent solution for that process.”

Attorney General Mark Herring said the bills are game-changers in the way Virginia treats survivors of sexual violence and helps them pursue justice.

“We will always stand with survivors as they pursue justice and continue on a path towards healing,” Herring said in the press release.

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