Often, when an individual reports a sexual assault, they may be asked to undergo a SART examination (or, in more colloquial terms, a “rape kit”). This is the forensic examination conducted to determine whether there is DNA evidence from the alleged perpetrator or other physical evidence that might corroborate a nonconsensual sexual encounter.
However, over the years, thousands of rape kits have gone untested and begun to pile up. The issue of untested forensic evidence has become particularly important in San Diego in recent elections, where labs are scrambling to catch up with new requests on old sexual assault kits.
Assembly Bill 18, a measure introduced in December of 2020, seeks to address that backlog.
AB 18 would amend California Penal Code section 680 to expand the processing of sexual assault forensic evidence. Current law mandates that sexual assault forensic evidence collected on or after January 1, 2016 be forwarded to a crime lab for testing within 20 days, and that the lab then process the evidence within 120 days. However, AB 18 would expand this mandate to include any sexual assault kits collected before that date and require that labs finish processing the evidence by January 1, 2024.
The enaction of AB 18—if it passes—could have far-reaching implications on criminal cases throughout the state. While DNA hits could render more investigative leads for sexual assault cases, it also presents the possibility that those accused will have to defend themselves years after the alleged incidents, when any favorable witnesses and evidence may be long gone. Ultimately, we may not be able to truly understand the impact of the bill—on those accused and their accusers alike—until it goes into effect.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in San Diego and would like to learn more about your options, give us a call at (619) 295-3555 to set up a case evaluation today.
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