Arizona has had a backlog of more than 6,000 rape kits from unresolved sexual assault cases, dating back to 2000. By the end of April, the State had tested around half of these kits and identified and indicted eight suspects, most of who are already in jail for other crimes. This project -- started back in 2016 -- aims to test all the rape kits that have been sitting in storage, unresolved.
Background Information on Rape Kits
Rape kits were originally developed during the 1970s as a standard way for law enforcement to collect evidence after a reported sexual assault. Their primary use was the collection of biological evidence to identify the suspect. In Arizona, investigators would decide if a rape kit could be tested. At the time, they assumed a kit did not need to be tested if the identity of the alleged suspect was known. Since 2017, that assumption is no longer accurate.
Procedure Changes from Backlogged Rape Kits
Through testing these backlogged rape kits, officials have discovered a pattern in some cases. At the time the rape kits were conducts and the allegations made, investigators thought the case would boil down to a he said/she said scenario, when in fact, the same alleged person was identified via the testing of multiple rape kits. Thus, these cases were no longer about one suspect and one accusation coming down to he said/she said scenario, but a case about one suspect and multiple allegations. In other words, for some of these cases, the State could have then but has now made an argument based on repetitive conduct.
Considering these results, investigators may think twice before they decide not to test a rape kit.
What Does This Mean for New Allegations of Sex Crimes?
In March 2017, Government Doug Ducey signed into law HB 2268. This law requires all new rape kits to be tested within 15 days. This news may come as a shock to persons who have been accused of a sex crime but who did not commit the crime. These cases many times are about he said/she said. Innocent suspects fear that a rape kit tested means a subsequent conviction for him or her.
But that's not the case.
A criminal defense lawyer who understand rape kits and medical forensic exams can use the information to your benefit. The forensic medical exam may determine that evidence of trauma is absent. If the accuser speaker to the police, a well-trained attorney may be able to identify inconsistencies with the alleged victim's accusations and the evidence collected from the rap kit. It all involves a lot of technical know-how and experience combined with insight and investigative skills.
If you have been accused of a sex crime that you did not commit. Do not panic about a rape kit. Instead, seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.