New law sets deadlines for sex assault kit testing after long backlog discovered

A new state law takes effect today, setting up deadlines for police agencies to collect and process sexual assault kits and letting victims know more about how their kits are being handled.

A number of groups were in on forming this new law, including law enforcement, and they all came together because of an audit from three years ago that showed a backlog of more than 3,500 untested rape kits.

This new law sets up accountability for law enforcement and transparency for the victim.

The testing of the kits takes time, but the new law also sets times for law enforcements to deliver evidence to the BCA for testing.

Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake) said, “The goal of this particular legislation with this very particular working group is to provide victims with respect, to provide victims with due process and with justice.”

After a victim gives consent to a sexual assault kit, police now have ten days to collect that kit from a hospital.

From there, police have 60 days to submit that kit to the BCA for DNA processing. That’s unless the county attorney determines it doesn’t have any evidentiary value.

Victims now have more access to the process. Upon a request to law enforcement, those agencies have 30 days to respond to the victim on when their kit was submitted to a lab and whether a DNA profile was obtained from the sample.

Advocates like Teri Walker McLaughlin, from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, say this is vitally important to victims.

“Many of them consider that an aspect of them, in those little boxes. And it’s important to them to have access to that information. What’s happening with it?” McLaughlin asked.

The new law also requires law enforcement to provide a liaison to victims to help them navigate the investigative system.

“This is just a step in the right direction to make sure the victims of sexual violence are actually, that they find justice,” said O’Neill.

This, says O’Neill, is a first step. She added that another step could be extending the statute of limitations beyond three years for these cases.