When the calendar turned to 2021, Minnesota ushered in a few new laws. In years past there were a number of smaller changes that affected criminal law, but this year only one major criminal law change went into effect on January 1st, and it affects how sexual assault examination kits are handled in Minnesota. We take a closer look at the changes to sexual assault kit handling in today’s blog.
Changes To Sexual Assault Kit Handling In Minnesota
The old law provided some discretion to law enforcement on submitting an unrestricted sexual assault examination kit for forensic testing. Now that January 1st has come and gone, that discretion is removed. Additionally, all unrestricted sexual assault kits will now be required to be sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension within 60 days for DNA testing. In the past, many of these unrestricted kits were not sent for testing in situations where the perpetrator is known but claims the encounter was consensual. Now, they will all be required to be tested, which could help connect DNA to other potential crimes.
Moreover, the new law also requires that the unrestricted kit be retained indefinitely by the submitting agency once it has been returned from laboratory testing.
The new law also changes how restricted kits are handled. A restricted sexual assault examination kit is one where the victim doesn’t want the evidence in the kit analyzed. In the past, these restricted kits were sent from the healthcare facility to police, who would then store it. However, if a victim decided not to move forward with testing, the kit was often destroyed within 3-6 months. Under the new law, the restricted kits will be sent directly to the BCA where they will be required to store them for at least 30 months from the receiving date.
This extended holding period will give sexual assault victims more time to change their mind about whether or not they want their kit tested. The last thing a sexual assault survivor would want after going through the entire ordeal is to learn that the untested kit was destroyed after 90 days and they no longer have evidence against their perpetrator, so this should be a welcomed change that will allow victims more time to pursue justice if they so desire.
Finally, the new law also requires the BCA to create a searchable online database so that victims can track the progress of their rape kit, much like how we can track a package from the postal service. All in all, these seem like welcomed changes for sexual assault victims that will help them however they choose to move forward.
For more information, or for help with a criminal case, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today.