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Elements of Reform: Changing State Laws To Prevent Future Backlogs

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2017
3 pages
As part of the training and technical assistance provided to grantees of the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), which intends to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in local and state jurisdictions, this report describes Kentucky's enactment of legislation to prevent future SAK backlogs in that state.
In March 2016, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a comprehensive SAK reform law, which received broad bipartisan support. Although this was not the first state reform law to address this issue, the Kentucky law is a model for other states. Kentucky's Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Act stemmed from a recommendation by Kentucky's state auditor in a 2015 special report. The report's recommendations were based on an investigation into why local law enforcement agencies were not submitting SAKs to the state's only criminal forensic laboratory for testing. The report's recommendations also identified reasons for the delays in testing SAKs at the crime laboratory. The Auditor's Office also studied other state laws related to this issue. The SAFE law requires that all SAKs be submitted and analyzed. Timelines are required for law enforcement agencies and hospitals to develop SAK kits, as well as for the crime laboratory to complete their testing. More training and policies for law enforcement are required in notifying victims about the status of their SAKs. A limitation is set on the option by law enforcement agencies to destroy SAKs. The law further requires the collection of data related to sexual assault in the state and a study of the costs of these crimes.