Bill could mean faster answer for rape victims

Published: Updated:
85th Support Command / Flickr / MGN

NAPLES, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill that would expedite the testing of new rape kits in the state, though a backlog of older kits could take years to process.

The law would mandate that all evidence kits taken in a rape case be submitted to the lab within 30 days and tested within 120 days.

In Southwest Florida, there were 1,048 untested rape kits, though more than 60 percent of them should be processed, according to a government report.

Eileen Wesley with the victim services organization, Project Help, said the law would mean her clients could depend on a legal deadline in the future.

“We’re going to have an answer. They’re going to have some kind of, hopefully, identifying DNA factor by the time the 120 days is over,” Wesley said. “During that time, we can do that continual counseling and get them to the point where they’re ready for the court.”

The bill (SB 636) would also make convicted offenders responsible for paying penalty fines, which would help cover some costs for rape kits.

Cost was a major reason 13,435 kits went untested throughout Florida, but even if the new law is passed it could take nine years to process them. Lawmakers hope the backlog of rape kits will be resolved in at most three years.

According to the FDLE bill analysis, additional supplies will be purchased to analyze the estimated 1,000 kits submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement annually.

Lawmakers said a fully-trained FDLE staff should be able to handle the extra workload, but if not, the kits will be outsourced at a cost of $1,000 per unit.

“We want to make sure that sexual assault kits arriving at FDLE are also timely tested, so I think the plan that we’ve developed is fully funded and addresses the issue 100 percent,” said state senator Joe Negron (R- Stuart).

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.