Rape kit bill passes senate committee

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A proposed state law to test DNA evidence from every sexual assault case passed a major hurdle in a Senate committee Tuesday.

A proposed state law to test DNA evidence from every sexual assault case passed a major hurdle in a Senate committee Tuesday. The bill was introduced after the ABC 7 I-Team discovered thousands of untested rape kits sitting on police storage room shelves

This might seem like common sense for law enforcement to test DNA evidence after a woman is sexually assaulted -- not only for that single case, but for possibly tying the assailant to other crimes. But, one powerful group is fighting the bill.

It sailed through the Assembly and Tuesday, AB 1517, which would set guidelines for the testing of rape kits, passed the Senate Public Safety Committee on a 5-0 vote. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley sponsored the measure after the I-Team found thousands of untested rape kits in police storage rooms around the Bay Area.

"With all of the evidence across America of those communities that have undertaken testing their backlog, we're all discovering the tremendous value there is in our ability to solve these crimes and to bring justice for those victims," O'Malley said during testimony Tuesday.

O'Malley points to New York City, where the arrest rate jumped from 40 to 70 percent, after clearing their backlog of untested rape kits. But, the California State Sheriffs' Association opposes the measure, partly because of the expense of DNA testing.

"We still have concerns though that the bill creates an expectation that every single kit will be tested and in every single case and we just don't think that it's necessary," sheriffs' association lobbyist Cory Salzillo said during testimony.

  • In response to the opposition, Assm. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, the bill's author, amended the measure.

  • Law enforcement would have had five days to submit a rape kit to a crime lab. Skinner changed that to 10.

  • She also doubled the number of days that labs would have to upload a DNA profile to the national database to 60.

  • And the law would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016.

"We want and expect rape kits to be examined, the information to be uploaded and this kind of crime to be treated with the seriousness it deserves," State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said.

So far, the bill has not received a single opposing vote, so the sheriffs' association is eyeing a final showdown with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The president of the association, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, told the I-Team, "The sheriffs have an excellent relationship with the governor. If this bill makes its way through the Senate and gets to the governor's desk, then we're going to have to sit down as an association and decide whether or not we're going to ask the governor to veto the bill or if we're going to live with the consequences of the bill."

The sheriff's association has been a strong supporter of the governor. We'll see how much pull they wind up having. The bill next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the full senate, and if it passes, to the governor's desk. We'll keep you up to date.
Related Topics:
politicsI-Teamrapesex crimescrimesherifflawsbillssexual assaultCalifornia
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