From the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence: "Rape Kit Bill Passes Unanimously"

Today, the Florida Legislature passed a major piece of legislation that will enhance public safety and support law enforcement efforts to address sexual violence. This afternoon, SB 636 passed its final test when the House unanimously voted to require timely testing of sexual offense evidence kits. The bill also requires responders to inform victims of their right to request the kit be tested, as well as the purpose of testing.

The passage of this legislation is the culmination of efforts initiated by Representative Janet Adkins – Fernandina Beach, and Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto – Fort Myers, with collaborative input from the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, the Office of Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, and local sexual assault programs.

"Not only does this legislation ensure that rape kits will no longer languish for years in storage – leaving evidence unprocessed and unavailable for use by law enforcement – it amplifies victims’ voices and expands their rights,” said Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. “Currently, victims who obtain a sexual assault forensic exam have no control over what happens to their kits, and often have no idea what happens to the evidence after collection. With HB 179/SB 636, Representative Adkins and Senator Benacquisto have said ‘no more’ to keeping victims in the dark about their kits and given law enforcement a tool that can help identify serial rapists. "

The issue of sexual assault kits has been a hot topic in Florida. In January, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the results of a statewide audit of Florida’s untested kits, finding an inventory of over 13,000 untested kits held by Florida’s law enforcement agencies.

The bill now heads to Governor Scott’s office. If signed into law, the legislation will take effect on July 1.