AG Kaul, lawmakers propose uniform rape kit testing protocol

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MADISON -- Less than a year after clearing a backlog of more than 4,000 untested sexual assault kits, Democratic Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is joining with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in support of a bill that's designed to prevent a future testing backlog.

The bill announced Tuesday, April 16, establishes a clear timeline for when rape kits are collected by law enforcement and when they are sent to the crime lab. For the director of the Wisconsin's State Crime Labs, the announcement is a relief.

Nicole Roehm

"It will keep the submission consistently happening," said Director of Wisconsin State Crime Lab, Nicole Roehm.

Under current law, there is no set timeline for when a kit is collected or submitted to the crime lab.

"Backlogs and bureaucracy should never be a barrier to justice," said Rep. David Steffen. R-Green Bay.

The bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and supported by Attorney General Josh Kaul, does both.

"This leg sends a clear message. We can never have a backlog of sexual assault kits in Wisconsin again," Kaul said.

If a survivor wants to report his or her assault to police, the bill requires hospital to notify law enforcement within 24 hours. Investigators have 72 hours to pick up the evidence kit, and 14 days to deliver it to the crime lab.

If the survivor consents to an exam, but doesn't want to report the crime, hospitals are required to send the kid directly to the crime lab within 72 hours, where it will be stored for ten years -- in case the survivor changes his or her mind.

"They deserve to have their kit there and ready when they are ready to report," said Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.

Lawmakers believe by giving survivors more time to make a decision, more will eventually report the crime.

"Three out of four sexual assaults go unreported," said Sargent.

When they do, investigators can be confident they have the evidence to help survivors get justice.

Kaul is optimistic the bill will quickly become law. He believes it will have broad bipartisan support.

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