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Detroit SAE kit testing backlog prompts new legislation

Michigan lawmakers are currently considering legislation that proposes requirements for law enforcement officers relating to the investigation of sex crimes cases. The bill specifically targets the testing of sexual assault examination kits by implementing strict time limitations for collection and testing.

Under the new legislation, police officers would be required to respond to the hospital no later than 14 days to pick up a kit that was completed by the medical center. Then, they have another 14 days before the kit must be submitted to the designated testing lab. The final time requirement is for the lab. Technicians would be required to run and analyze the evidence collected in the kit within 90 days.

A backlog from Detroit in 2009 consisting of 11,000 untested assault kits prompted the current legislation, but this measure is not reactive. The new requirements will not contribute to a resolution for this particular backlog. Instead, it is supposed to set standards that would proactively prevent another large backlog in the future.

The proposed legislation passed with a unanimous vote in the Michigan House on Thursday, May 22. At this point, it moves for consideration in the Senate.

Evidence collected in sexual assault examination kits includes physical evidence. Hair and bodily fluids are two examples of physical evidence that may be collected with the goal of determining identifying DNA. Although DNA may be used to identify a possible suspect, it is absolutely vital that people remember that this identification does not equate to guilt.

Although identification through DNA does not equate to guilt in a sexual assault case, this is still a very serious matter that needs to be addressed.

Source: WWMT, "House approves bill to speed rape kit testing," May 22, 2014

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