Gov. Malloy Signs Law Improving Processing of Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman today joined sexual assault victim advocates and state officials to commemorate the passage into law of legislation that improves evidence collection and analysis in sexual assault cases by enhancing statewide protocols. The new law establishes deadlines for transferring and testing sexual assault evidence to the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory - the state's crime lab - in order to provide a better framework for handling these cases.
"This is about standing up for and protecting victims, and our new law is another step in our efforts to do just that. Establishing clear protocols for handling evidence will help law enforcement in their efforts to identify perpetrators, while increasing care for victims. It's no doubt a positive step," Governor Malloy said. "The efforts and initiatives that we've been implementing are making Connecticut a national leader in addressing sexual assault evidence collection and analysis. We all should be proud of the steps we're taking."
The Governor held a ceremonial bill signing this afternoon at the offices of the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services in East Hartford to commemorate the passage of the law. The organization is among the many supporters who advocated for the legislation.
"We are all united behind a common goal to ensure that sexual assault victims get the support they need to move forward in their lives," Lt. Governor Wyman said. "This legislation establishes better protocols to test evidence - it will support victims of sexual assault and help investigators get criminals off the streets."
Under the new law, sexual assault evidence kits must be sent to the state crime lab within ten days of collection and must be processed within 60 days. It also increases the amount of time kits are held from 60 days to five years for victims who do not want to immediately make a report to the police and initially submit anonymous evidence kits.
In 2011, calling a backlog at the crime lab "unacceptable," Governor Malloy tasked a working group with developing both short and long-term strategies to improve the lab's overall capacity, increase staffing, and address its expanded workload. Since then, a number of reforms were implemented at the lab and the state's backlog of sexual assault evidence kits has been eliminated.
"DESPP stands ready to fully implement the provisions of this bill," Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) Commissioner Dora Schriro said. "This is an important initiative, one that both advances the rights of victims of sexual assault and affirms the responsibilities of law enforcement."
While the state crime lab has no sexual assault evidence kit backlog, a survey that began last fall by the Commission on the Standardization of the Collection of Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations determined that there were 879 unprocessed kits at law enforcement departments across the state. To date, 476 of those kits have been sent to the crime lab with the remainder queued up to be transported.
In response to the survey results, Governor Malloy today announced his intent to form a working group to examine the barriers that may have faced state and local law enforcement in submitting that evidence to the crime lab and to coordinate the testing of those kits.
"Victims who undergo an invasive sexual assault exam and evidence collection process in the aftermath of a trauma do so fully expecting that their kit will be tested, that it will help an investigation and bring them one step closer to justice, safety, and healing," Laura Cordes, Executive Director of CONNSACS, said. "With the adoption of this new law, a commitment to test all kits, and the Governor's working group, we are sending a strong message to victims, that what happened to them matters and that their evidence will indeed be utilized."
"Today, Connecticut is at the forefront of addressing this problem, standing with a handful of states as a model for the rest of the nation," Ilse Knecht, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor of Joyful Heart Foundation, said. "We applaud the work that CONNSACS, Governor Malloy, and lawmakers have done to uncover Connecticut's backlog and take meaningful steps to address it."
Connecticut is one of only a handful of states that has completed a statewide inventory of the number of sexual assault evidence kits in police custody and has established timelines for processing evidence from sex crimes.
The legislation is Public Act 15-207, An Act Concerning Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases.
For Immediate Release: July 22, 2015
Contact: David Bednarz
Office of Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman