SAINT PAUL, MN—On Wednesday, August 1, 2018, a new law took effect that will reform the way sexual assault examination kits are handled, provide clarity to law enforcement, and put power back in the hands of survivors seeking justice. The law came after a 2015 audit done by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) found a statewide backlog of nearly 3,500 untested kits including some involving open cases.
“The backlog in processing rape kits was a major obstacle in finding justice for sexual assault victims,” said Rep. Regina Barr, R-Inver Grove Heights. “With this law we have taken a significant step in Minnesota to ensure every victim of sexual assault will have a greater chance to get the justice they deserve. This law will help put predators behind bars and I am proud to have supported it.”
Taking effect today, this new law:
- Requires law enforcement to retrieve an unrestricted sexual assault examination kit (meaning the patient has authorized law enforcement to submit the kit to a forensic laboratory for testing) within 10 days of notice, and submit that kit for testing within 60 days
- Makes clear that the kit does not have to be tested if it’s believed to not have evidentiary value in a case (if there is a confession, for example), but still requires law enforcement to make a record with the county attorney on why the kit did not add evidentiary value
- Ensures victims are more easily able to track their kits through the system, requiring law enforcement to respond within 30 days to requests from victims about when their kit was submitted to a lab and whether a DNA profile was obtained from testing
- Requires law enforcement agencies to provide liaison services between the victim, agency and lab, helping victims more easily navigate what can be a complicated and overwhelming system
- Creates clear procedures for victims who may choose to come forward at a later date with testing and reclassify their kit from restricted to unrestricted
This new law was crafted in a working group which included stakeholders associated with law enforcement, the BCA, health care, attorneys, sexual assault nurse examiners, and the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA). MNCASA has also been instrumental in seeking federal grants that will help test all the remaining untested kits, looking especially for serial rapists.
“At MNCASA, we are dedicated to helping survivors and championing public policy initiatives that put survivors first,” said Teri Walker McLaughlin, Executive Director of MNCASA. “We want to be a catalyst for positive and meaningful change, and we believe this new law is critical in addressing sexual assault in Minnesota."
“Victims of sexual violence deserve justice. Ensuring there is a proper procedure to test critical evidence and helping survivors more easily navigate our legal system are both positive and much-needed changes in our state. Today, Minnesota law is seeing critically-needed reform, and I am hopeful that we can continue to advance bipartisan solutions that hold rapists accountable and stand up for survivors,” concluded Rep. Marion O’Neill, chief author of the bill.