For years, a massive backlog of untested rape kits in Texas has hindered investigations and the potential exoneration of people wrongly convicted of sexual offenses.
However, a new law that crowdfunds money for rape kit testing is making a dent in the problem. It collected almost $250,000 in its first five months, according to the bill’s author Rep. Victoria Neave.
The massive backlog in the testing of rape kits was the catalyst for the legislation.
The most recent data available from the Texas Department of Public Safety pointed to a backlog of more than 3,500 untested rape kits in the state, reported The Texas Tribune.
Rape kits are gathered through painstaking exams of sexual assault victims. They cost $500 to $2,000 each. The high cost of the initiative has contributed to the backlog.
The bill spearheaded by Neave allowed Texans who are applying for or renewing their driver’s license the option to donate $1 or more toward the rape kit testing initiative. The program has collected more than $234,956 as of June 2018, Neave said.
Neave, a Dallas Democrat told The Texas Tribune. “Sexual assault happens every single day, and the numbers continue to increase. There still isn’t enough funding right now to get all of the kits tested.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott supports the program. A spokesman for his office said none of the money has been released yet but application requests will go out on July 1.
“Sexual assault evidence collection kits provide our law enforcement and prosecutors with a critical tool for identifying and prosecuting offenders,” Abbott said earlier in the year.
Texas is not the only state to suffer from a backlog in rape kit testing. Across the nation, tens of thousands of rape kits are still in police evidence rooms awaiting testing.
Some of these kits have remained untested for years. The delay has hindered the administration of justice and may mean the wrong people are incarcerated for sexual offenses.
A report on NPR noted a national push is underway to address the backlog. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he is setting up a new task force to find and test old kits. Kentucky considered a bill requiring rape kits to be tested within 30 days of collection.
In past years, legislation in Texas has increased resources for the testing of rape kits. However, the backlog has proved to be stubborn.
If you have been charged with a sexual assault in Texas, you are likely to be facing a heavy sentence. Please contact our Dallas criminal defense lawyers.