New legislation would require sexual assault examination kits to be tested within 90 days

Tackling the backlog of sexual assault kits

Tackling the backlog of sexual assault kits

Legislation included in both Minnesota House and Senate Omnibus public safety bills would require that a sexual assault examination kit must be tested within 90 days after arriving at the lab.

In Minnesota, sexual assault examination kits are sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s laboratory for forensic testing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s omnibus bill, and similar house legislation would require a statutory timeframe in state law that tests must be processed.

“I think it holds our system accountable,” said Artika Roller, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

According to MNCASA, there is no timeframe for laboratories testing sexual assault kits and that some victims and survivors have had to wait up to eight months for their kits to be tested.

“Having their test processed right away is one of those things that can help them seek and find the resolve they are looking for,” Roller said.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner Bob Jacobson raised concerns with lawmakers in both the House and Senate last week about the proposed turnaround time for the kits.

“We’re concerned this approach will negatively impact other violent crime evidence turnaround time,” Jacobson testified during a Senate hearing.

The BCA reports in the first quarter of this year, that from when a kit arrives until testing is complete, the average turnaround time is 110 days.

563 sexual assault kits are currently either in the testing process or waiting in the queue, according to the state lab.

“We agree that victim survivors of sexual assault should expect reasonable turnaround times,” said BCA superintendent Drew Evans.

But if a time requirement for one crime is written into statue, Evans said it could delay processing evidence from other violent crimes that don’t have a timeframe written into law.

“We’d have to meet the statutory timeframe for 90 days while the other cases don’t have that requirement, therefore we would have to deprioritize those to meet the particular timeframe,” Evans said.

If lawmakers fully fund the BCA’s budget, Evans says the agency is aiming at a 30-day goal for turnaround time for all evidence.

“I appreciate them having a goal of 30 days, but we want to be realistic, that there has to be concrete precedence on how we move forward with these cases,” Roller said as to why a set timeframe is needed.

Lawmakers will debate the omnibus bills in the coming weeks to see what will make it into the final version for funding.