- Kelsey Hawes
The Idaho Senate voted unanimously Tuesday morning to approve House Bill 528, which would create new rules regarding the processing of rape kits.
The legislation—the first of kind in Idaho—requires local law enforcement to send rape kits to the Idaho State Police for processing unless the victim expresses otherwise, as well as creates a processing timeline.
In a series of articles published in November 2015, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported dozens of untested rape kits were sitting on shelves at Canyon County law enforcement offices. A review of the Nampa Police Department revealed 10 percent of rape kits collected had been submitted to an Idaho State Police lab for testing. Additionally, the Press-Tribune reported an unprocessed kit at an Idaho State Police forensics lab in Meridian had been on the shelf for more than 100 days.
"Currently no statute exists that addresses the collection and testing of sexual assault kits in Idaho. This will codify that process," said Sen. Maryanne Jordan (D-Boise), introducing the bill to the full Senate. "This also addresses the issue of backlogs of rape kits and sends a clear message that the crime of sexual assault is taken seriously."
If the bill is signed into law by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, rape kits must be processed by forensics labs within 90 days, sending analyses and the original evidence back to the investigating agency. Additionally, Idaho crime labs will issue an annual audit to the Legislature, detailing the number of kits analyzed. The annual report from Idaho State Police would also be available to the public.
"There has been no opposition to this legislation,' said Jordan.
With that, the full Senate gave its unanimous approval. The Idaho House previously approved the measure with a unanimous vote.