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Testing Of Backlogged Rape Kits Leads To Arrest
The United States has an endemic problem with the prosecution of rape. As DNA evidence has become indispensable to law enforcement, cases have more and more often been built around it – but too often, rape kits that might provide that valuable DNA evidence lay on a shelf or in a cabinet, untested by crime labs around the country. However, this is slowly starting to change; organizations like the Joyful Heart Foundation are working hard to get more kits tested. This obviously means closure for victims, but it may also wind up embroiling some innocent people in grisly sexual assault cases out of left field.
What Is A Rape Kit?
A rape kit is the term applied to the evidence collected during a sexual assault forensic exam, usually blood, hair, or swabs of biological material. These types of evidence very often carry what is known as nuclear DNA, which is the most effective type to use in DNA matches to potential suspects. However, this evidence needs to be both sent officially to a crime lab, and it needs to be tested by trained professionals. Far too commonly, either or both steps are not performed. This leads to a backlog of untested kits, which builds up over time. Every untested kit has the potential to identify a suspect, to close a case, or even in rare cases to point the proverbial finger at a serial rapist.
Florida had one of the highest numbers of untested kits as of January 2019, but as of September 2019, officials in Tallahassee announced that the state’s backlog of more than 8,000 untested kits had been cleared. While the results from these newly tested kits are still coming in as of this writing, over 1,800 DNA matches have been made to profiles in the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), leading to countless arrests. Obviously, this is in the public interest, and can help countless victims find peace after traumatic experiences, but at the same time, it can also lead to potential problems for those who might be unlucky.
Sexual Battery Carries Stiff Sentences
As Florida tests over 8,000 backlogged rape kits, receiving so many hits, it is reasonable to assume that not every DNA result might lead to a conviction. While DNA evidence has a very low failure rate, sometimes a person’s DNA may be present for a plausible reason, and it can take time and trouble to go to trial in order to explain that. Sexual battery is one of the most harshly sentenced crimes in Florida, for entirely understandable reasons, and a conviction can result in a sentence of life without parole if the age of the victim and the nature of the crime are held to warrant that.
Florida law surrounding the processing of rape kits has changed in the last decade, with testing now being mandated unless the sexual assault survivor declines. If you are suddenly accused of sexual battery or assault, you need to be in a position where you can ensure you get your day in court, because conviction can be a serious problem when trying to obtain future housing, employment, and several other areas of life. Be certain that your rights are protected.
Contact A West Palm Beach Sexual Assault Attorney
As results from tested kits continue to come in, more and more suspects will be identified. If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial that you enlist a West Palm Beach sex crime attorney to represent you. The firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. has years of experience in these types of cases, and will make certain that your rights are protected in court. Contact us today to speak to an attorney.