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Gov. Abbott Expected to Sign Law to Further Address Texas Rape Kit Backlog

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SCREENSHOT VIA KXAN NEWSCAST
  • Screenshot via KXAN newscast
Despite significant advances in evidence collection and scientific testing, many sexual assault cases remain unsolved because evidence has not been processed. Nationwide, scores of rape kits remain ignored in storage, and many times end up damaged by mold, rendering them useless as evidence.

Since 2011, Texas has passed multiple laws aimed at addressing its backlog of evidence, but according to End The Backlog, of the 18,955 untested rape kits submitted to the state lab in the wake of a landmark 2011 law requiring that the Texan backlog be eliminated by 2014, 2,138 still remain untested today.

House Bill 8 is the latest attempt to rectify this shameful state of affairs, and it is no half measure. The bill, which was passed by the House and Senate last week, requires that law enforcement follow strict timelines regarding picking up rape kits from health care facilities and submitting them for testing, keeping all kits for 40 years and informing victims on the status of their cases.

Additionally, the bill eliminates the statute of limitations for cases in which evidence has yet to be tested or in which no DNA match has been found in the law enforcement database. Police departments are also required to perform an audit of all remaining untested kits and report the status of the backlog to the state government on a quarterly basis.

The bill's co-author, State Rep. Ina Minjarez, District 124, told KSAT that the law is named for a Houston victim whose attacker was discovered to be a serial rapist after the statute of limitations ran out on her case.

H.B. 8 now sits on Abbott's desk, waiting to be signed.

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