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The Road Ahead: Unanalyzed Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
Nancy Ritter
After documenting that untested sexual assault evidence is being stored in evidence rooms across the country, the report discusses a variety of ramifications for the police and crime laboratories, the courts, and the victims in these cases.
Given the presence in evidence rooms of a significant number of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have not been sent to laboratories, this report poses a number of questions: should officials allocate the resources to test all SAKs in evidence rooms or should they establish a prioritization process for determining which SAKs should be sent to the lab, and when? This report suggests reasons why the answers to these questions are not as straightforward as they may seem. Jurisdictions are using various approaches to address the untested SAK problem; however, developing scientific evidence needed to determine which approaches are the most effective, i.e., solving the most crimes with the greatest efficiency, will take time. The report also examines some of the issues underlying “stranger” and “acquaintance” rape; implications for police investigation and case prosecution, particularly regarding statutes of limitations; and the sensitive issue of victim notification in older cases. In addressing the issue of untested SAKs in evidence rooms across the country, this report advises that it is crucial for responses to balance justice, public safety, and the victims’ needs. The goal should be to adopt systematic practices, procedures, and protocols that will prevent the current situation from recurring to become a chronic issue.
Date Created: May 9, 2011