When someone is accused of a serious crime, it is reasonable to expect that the evidence used against him has been collected and analyzed in an accurate and timely manner. Unfortunately, recent news about a backlog of rape kits in Salt Lake City and other locations in Utah may mean that the accuracy of testing will be compromised.
When police begin an investigation of a rape or other sex crime, they often start by taking the victim to a hospital for examination by a doctor or nurse trained to collect forensic evidence in these sorts of cases. In most cases, the medical professional conducting the exam will use what is known as a physical evidence recovery kit or a rape kit. These evidence kits contain materials needed to collect DNA, hair and other physical evidence, as well as forms to ensure that proper chain of custody is established, which is required for the evidence to be used in court.
Recently, law enforcement officials discovered that a large number of rape kits collected by police in multiple Utah cities have yet to be tested. Police in West Valley City, for example, have 124 untested rape kits currently in evidence. Salt Lake City police also have a large number of untested kits. When officials contacted the Utah State Crime Lab, they discovered that it would take approximately two years to process these untested kits.
This backlog is significant for several reasons. Fist, it hinders investigators’ ability to solve crimes. Indeed, as the use of DNA evidence and the creation of DNA databases has advanced, these kits have become increasingly useful to law enforcement agencies as a means of identifying individual perpetrators.
Second, the delay in processing and efforts by law enforcement to speed up the process may impact the accuracy of the information presented by the crime lab. Over the past decade, multiple states, including Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota, have seen significant problems arise in state crime labs due to lack of funding and pressure to do more with fewer resources.
If you have been charged with rape, sexual assault or any other sex crime, it is essential to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense lawyer understands that a conviction for these crimes brings the possibility of significant penalties, including prison time. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and can work to protect them. To learn more, contact a criminal defense attorney today.