State Announces Money To Test Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits And Bill To Change Testing Rules

Jan 29, 2019

About 4,500 more sexual assault kits statewide will now be able to be tested with $3 million in new grants. This will chip away at a chunk of nearly 15,000 untested sexual assault kits that were found sitting in local law enforcement agencies across the state last year.

Credit U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton-Maurer

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said lawmakers still must allocate $6 million to finish testing the rest of the 15,000 kits. That’s part of a bill lawmakers announced Tuesday called the Survivors Act. Stein said the bill also would require officers to automatically send kits for testing.

“So that they are no longer engaging in a subjective determination about 'this reported sexual assault kit should I send it to the crime lab or not. Let me think about it, and I’ll put it on the shelf while I consider it,'" Stein said. "Law enforcement within 45 days of accepting a kit as a matter of course just send it to an accredited lab."

Co-chair of a legislative committee on public safety Representative James Boles Jr. said this won’t be a political football and is a priority in both chambers.  

"Survivors deserve justice and the public deserves to be protected," Boles said.  "Therefore we are establishing a statewide testing protocol to get these kits form being located statewide untested in a pipeline to be tested because testing is vital to the solving crimes and preventing future crimes."

Boles explained the kits would be put into three categories. One for survivors want to move forward with a criminal investigation, one for surivors who don't and another for unfounded kits where it was determined a crime wasn't committed. Those would then be stored at a central Deparment of Public Safety lcoation so that when and if survivors decide to move forward with an investigation they know where their kits are and that they are being preserved.  

The bill would also set up timelines for how quickly law enforcement would to have to follow up on DNA results.