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Testing of Backlogged Rape Kits in Florida Leads to New Suspects Being Arrested Nearly 30 Years Later: Why This Is Problematic

DNAEvidence

Florida has recently begun testing thousands of rape kits that have been in storage for almost 30 years, leading to the arrest of a number of suspects accused of sexual battery and other sex crimes. The process usually involves the initial tests providing investigators with a name, which investigators then use to search the FBI’s DNA database. However, there are a number of concerns associated rape kits, especially those that have been in storage for many years, as we describe below.

Why Florida Law Mandates That Rape Kits Be Tested Right Away

Florida law mandates that rape kits be tested within 30 days after they have been administered unless there is an objection from the sexual assault survivor. In fact, some jurisdictions require that they be destroyed as early as six months after they are initially stored, and the shortest statute of limitations in the U.S. is three years (although there is no state of imitations when it comes to rape). This is in part because there are a whole host of proof- and evidence-related issues when it comes to rape kits, which many assume are able to provide proof of rape through documentation of injury, however, the ‘proof of force’ isn’t necessarily easy to distinguish from those that result from certain types of consensual sex. Take one case where an innocent man was convicted because he and the victim had had a consensual sexual relationship around the same time that the victim was raped, which accounted for the presence of his DNA and thus his eventual wrongful conviction.

In fact, a rape kit cannot prove that rape occurred, or whether consent was given, and when victims’ bodies are treated as crime scenes, this is problematic, as best evidence collection practices mandate that crime scenes be completely undisturbed, which is impossible when it comes to bodies, especially when it comes to victims who have just experienced a sexual violation.

Still, what these kits do accomplish is providing a jury with the same uninformed assurance that most-all forensic evidence always has, regardless of how reliable it actually is. In reality, if too much time has passed before a victim had a rape kit exam performed, or if the kit evidence was improperly collected, handled, or stored, the rape kit is not reliable in terms of yielding actual DNA evidence and DNA profile of an assailant cannot be developed.

Contact Our Florida Sex Crime Defense Attorneys with Any Questions

If you have been accused of a sex crime as the result of a rape kit that has been in storage, you are innocent until proven guilty. Our Orlando sex crimes attorneys believe that you deserve the very best in defense and your constitutional rights must be protected, especially when it comes to the risks that can come with dated forensic evidence, including wrongful conviction. Contact us at the Baez Law Firm today to find out more.

 

Resource:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/07/24/james-chad-lewis-clay-dna-detroit-rape-kit-testing-wrongful-conviction/

https://splinternews.com/the-problem-with-rape-kits-1823609329

https://www.foxnews.com/us/florida-backlogged-rape-kits-arrest-sex-offender

https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Forensics/Documents/Sexual-Assault-Kit-FAQs-for-LEA_Final.aspx

https://www.baezlawfirm.com/floridas-sex-crime-case-against-kraft-others-falls-apart-due-to-police-failing-to-properly-conduct-surveillance-so-as-to-protect-privacy-rights/

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