Leyva Bill Requiring Rape Kit Testing Heads to Governor’s Desk

SB 1449 Ensures Justice for Survivors and Helps Put Rapists Behind Bars

Friday, August 31, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Without a single ‘No’ vote in the Senate and Assembly, historic legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) requiring that law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories promptly analyze and test all newly collected rape kit evidence in California advanced today to the Governor for consideration.

Sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation, and Natasha’s Justice Project, SB 1449 follows federal best practices and ensures that victims reporting sexual assault across California will have equal access to swift submission and analysis of forensic evidence associated with their cases. Under the legislation, newly collected rape kits must be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt in order to prevent the development of backlogs of forensic evidence in evidence rooms or laboratories. Testing DNA evidence in rape kits can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.

“I am proud that California is again on the cusp of making history by standing alongside rape victims and making sure that the rape kits associated with their cases are analyzed so that we can finally hold their rapists accountable for their crimes,” Senator Leyva said.  “As the author of SB 813 that eliminated the statute of limitations on rape in California, I know that SB 1449 will help to further ensure justice for victims by helping to identify rapists and ultimately put them behind bars. After having been raped and then undergoing an invasive rape kit exam, it’s unconscionable that a victim would be led to believe that their rape kit would be tested promptly and then have that kit sit for months or years on a shelf.  I am hopeful that SB 1449 will soon be signed into law so that California can continue to lead the way on protecting victims and making sure that rapists are held to account for their cowardly and reprehensible actions.”

As a companion bill to SB 1449, AB 3118—authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and coauthored by Senator Leyva—would require each law enforcement agency, crime lab, medical facility, or any other facility that possesses sexual assault evidence kits to conduct an audit of all untested kits in its possession and report findings to the Department of Justice.  AB 3118 passed from the Legislature on Monday.

“Sexual assault survivors deserve justice, and a rape kit sitting on a shelf collecting dust is not justice,” noted Assemblymember Chiu. “To truly address the backlog, we need to know how many untested kits exist in California, and we must test all kits moving forward to ensure we do not increase that backlog.”

Currently serving as the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016 and to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017.  The Senator is also presently leading efforts to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination in California (SB 820).

During its legislative journey, SB 1449 has been supported the California District Attorneys Association, City of Sacramento, Crime Victims United, State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, Investigative Lead, LLC, Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association, and San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.

Along with the diverse coalition of organizations noted above, the three bill sponsors have worked diligently to help ensure passage of SB 1449 from both the Senate and Assembly. Here is what they have stated:

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley:

“For years, I have been fighting to eliminate the backlog of sexual assault kits and ensure that never again will California see any backlog of these vital pieces of forensic evidence.  I am very pleased that today, we are one step closer to this goal. Once SB 1449 is signed into law, victims of sexual violence will be assured that evidence collected from their bodies will be handled in a professional and timely manner, enabling law enforcement and prosecutors to identify and bring to justice those who commit sexual assault. I thank Senator Leyva for authoring and championing this important piece of legislation.”

Joyful Heart Foundation Director of Policy & Advocacy Ilse Knecht:

"Credit is due to the Californians in our Joyful Heart community who sent tens of thousands of letters, phone calls, social media messages, and emails to their legislators in support of SB 1449 and AB 3118. Together, these bills will position California as a role model for states across the country.  For too long, justice for survivors of sexual assault in California has depended on the survivor’s zip code. With the Governor's signature, SB 1449 will put an end to that practice, and take important next steps to test all rape kits. That means justice for survivors, accountability for serial predators, and safer communities for all. We are grateful to Senator Connie Leyva and Assemblymember David Chiu for their determination and commitment to getting these bills through each chamber."

Natasha’s Justice Project Founder Natasha Alexenko:
 
“My rape kit went untested for nearly a decade while the man that raped me a gun point continued his crime spree across the nation. I have the deepest respect for the community leaders, elected officials, and survivors whose altruism and dedication towards this issue should serve as an inspiration to all.”