Santa Clara County will study how to speed up rape kit analysis, which typically takes more than three months to complete. County Supervisor Cindy Chavez came up with the proposal, which directs the District Attorney’s Office and crime lab to figure out how to process the sexual assault tests within 30 days instead of the current average of 94.
Currently, state guidelines urge law enforcement agencies to submit the kits to the forensic lab within 20 days after evidence is obtained from the victim. The lab then has to process the evidence and upload DNA profile information into the Combined DNA Index System—known as CODIS—no later than 120 after receiving it.
Last summer, a survey by San Jose Inside of all South Bay law enforcement agencies found that hundreds of rape kits remain untested. And just last month, a report showed that police in San Jose have been grappling with a steep rise in reported rapes.
Chavez originally suggested processing rape kits within 15 days of being collected and clearing the current backlog by the end of the year. After conferring with the DA and local crime lab, however, she revised her proposal to have the evidence processed within a month of collection and having the current backlog cleared by the end of July 2019. The proposal would also require a progress report in September next year.
Over the last five years, the number of rape kits submitted into the county crime lab have increased while the average processing time has improved. As of this week, there are 270 sexual assault kits pending testing in the local crime lab. Statewide, there are approximately 13,600 untested kits.
The local proposal comes as state legislators consider a bill—SB 1449 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino)—that would change the timeline for testing rape kits from a suggested guideline to a firm deadline of 20 days to submit to the lab and 120 thereafter to test it.