Bill aims to solve untested rape kit backlog

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 19:10:16-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla-- State lawmakers are taking action to clear up a major backlog of unrest rape kits in the State of Florida.

An audit last year revealed more than 13,000 rape kits have been sitting untested.

One thousand of them are right here in Palm Beach County.

Wednesday, the State Senate passed a bill that would put a strict deadline on both law enforcement agencies and crime labs for turning over and testing these kits.

The goal it to prevent a backlog like this from happening again.

If the bill becomes law, law enforcement agencies will have 30 days to turn over a kit to the state crime labs.

The crime labs would have 120 days to test the kits.

"I think it's what we need," said Julie Weil, a rape survivor and now victims' advocate.

"What we don't want to see is digging ourselves out of a hole out of 13,000 kits just to turnaround and fall right back in," she said.

PBSO says it's working to clear up the local backlog.

However, it presents a more sensitive issue, notifying victims once a backlogged kit is tested. The county's Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) discussed this today.

"It's very sensitive because when we approach the victims, first of all they may not know that their kit has been tested, and they may have a variety of reactions," said Nicole Bishop, with the county's Victims and Justice Services.

SART says it is having a victims' advocate respond with the officer or deputy to notify the victim.

There is a similar version of this bill to pay for testing the kits in the State House. That could come up for a vote as early as next week.

We reached out to FDLE and PBSO to see if the bill's time line was feasible for crime labs or if it would require additional funding. We did not hear back.