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Solving the Problem of Untested Evidence in Sexual Assaults

NCJ Number
Date Published
Nancy Ritter
Publication Series
This paper examines how law enforcement officials decide whether or not to submit sexual assault kits (SAKs) for analysis and once the SAK is analyzed, determining best practices in victim notification.
A sexual assault kit (SAK) is a box or envelope used to collect and store biological and trace evidence in cases of alleged sexual assault. It is unknown how many unanalyzed SAKs there are across the United States. The solution to dealing with the large number of older, unanalyzed SAKs is anything but straightforward. A key question is should all untested SAKs be tested, even those more than 25 years old. An understanding is imperative on how law enforcement officials decide whether or not to submit SAKs to the crime laboratory for analysis and how cases are triaged for other investigations. The decision to test all or only some of the kits is followed by the important process of notification victims. When should the victim be notified? Ultimately, delays in evidence being sent to a laboratory and delays in analyzing evidence results in delays in justice. It is crucial that there be a balance in justice, public safety, and victims’ needs. There must be an adoption of systematic practices, procedures, and protocols that will prevent such situations from ever arising again. Resources
Date Created: March 3, 2011