Legislation seeking to prevent future backlog of untested sexual assault kits now in effect
Legislation designed to prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits went into effect on Friday, July 1.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) said 2021 Wisconsin Act 116 “seeks to ensure that sexual assault kits in Wisconsin are collected and sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Labs in an efficient and expedient manner.”
Prior to the legislation, there was no clear statutory procedure for the collection, processing, and retention of sexual assault kits, according to a release from the DOJ.
“This lack of a standardized process contributed to thousands of kits not being submitted to the state crime laboratory for analysis until recent state and national efforts,” DOJ stated. “This new law creates procedures that will help prevent a backlog in the future.”
The DOJ explained that with these changes, when a healthcare professional collects sexual assault evidence, a victim will have the choice to report to law enforcement or not. If the victim chooses not to report to law enforcement, the healthcare professional will send the kit to the state crime laboratories for storage within 72 hours. The crime lab will then store the kit for up to 10 years or until the victim decides to report to law enforcement.
“This feature of the bill provides the sexual assault survivor with options in the event they change their mind about reporting,” the DOJ stated, adding that if a victim does choose to report to law enforcement, the health care professional will notify law enforcement within 24 hours after collecting the sexual assault kit. The law enforcement agency then has 72 hours to collect the kit from the health care professional, and then 14 days to send the kit to the state crime laboratories for analysis.
“The legislation also provides for the DOJ to collect valuable information on sexual assault kits to better inform future evidence-based analysis and policy making,” DOJ stated.
“Testing sexual assault kits can lead to the identification of violent criminals, helping to get justice for survivors and making our communities safer,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “This law will help ensure that Wisconsin never has another backlog of untested sexual assault kits.”