Sexual assault kit bill would speed up testing timeline
Wisconsin's Attorney General met with local law enforcement officials Wednesday to talk about efforts to prevent a backlog of untested rape kits from ever happening again.
As we’ve been reporting, the state’s crime lab spent years catching up on a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits.
“There were over 6,000 kits that were untested that were inventoried by the state,” said Kaul.
In 2015, Wisconsin was awarded a federal grant to help move the testing along. Now, four years later, Attorney General Kaul said the backlog is gone but there’s still work to be done to ensure this never happens again.
“They should have justice pursued in their cases and they shouldn’t have unnecessary delays because there’s a delay in having the kits submitted,” said Kaul.
Kaul said for far too long sexual assault survivors were left waiting for answers, sometimes for years. That is why Kaul is proposing a new piece of legislation that will bring suspects to justice a lot faster.
If a survivor wishes to report the incident to law enforcement officials, they would then have 72 hours to collect the rape kit and 14 days to submit it to the crime lab.
Kaul is also working on making the testing process more efficient in the crime lab by cutting down on DNA testing time.
“I would like to see that time under 2 months,” said Kaul. “Last year the average wait time was 80 days.”
Kaul is also trying to limit a DNA analysts duties in the crime lab. An analysis done in 2018 shows the state has enough DNA analysts, but they are being bogged down with too many things.
“We asked for additional technicians for DNA, two additional firearm analysts and three additional crime scene response specialist. We haven't gotten all of that in the budget the Joint Finance Committee passed but we are hoping the additional resources will help us to work to reduce the turnaround times,” said Kaul. “The committee has allocated some of the positions we requested so that will help.”
In cases where there testing was done and there’s a DNA match, investigators are continuing to look into the cases to see whether further investigation is warranted. So far, there are 8 cases in which charges have been brought to suspects since testing of the rape kits.
“I anticipate there will be more cases in the future,” said Kaul.
Kaul's proposal also gives survivors more power in deciding when to report the assault byrequiring the state crime lab to hold onto a kit for 10 years.
However, Republican Senator Andre Jacque, who is also working on sexual assault legislation, said it should be longer.
“I think my proposal would look at 50 years,” said Jacque. “But really the sexual assault advocates were looking at a minimum of 20 years they would like to see those kits retained.”
Kaul said his piece of legislation still needs to be heard by committees in both the Assembly and Senate. Those have not been scheduled at this time. However, he said Governor Tony Evers has shown support for the bill.