AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia bill would require police to count and submit sex assault evidence

A bill that would require law enforcement to count and submit neglected sexual assault evidence has gained more than 70 co-sponsors, State Rep. Scott Holcomb said.

HB 827, also called the “Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act,” would also require new evidence, stored in packages known as rape kits, to be submitted to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensic testing division within 30 days after collection. The legislation addresses a national problem in which police agencies locked away untested kits even when they contained valuable DNA evidence and victims wanted to prosecute.

“Everybody is on board with what we want to do,” said Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat who has been working on a version of the rape kit legislation with State Rep. Stacy Abrams (D-Atlanta) since last year.  “Everyone recognizes the issue that we need a statutory requirement to have the kits moved to GBI.”

The deadline to submit the tallies to GBI would be Sept. 1, the bill states. Transfer of the kits would take place by Nov. 1.

Last year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that Grady Memorial Hospital had locked away some 1,400 kits in file cabinets on the mistaken belief that federal privacy regulations prevented them from handing them from police. Grady, which is the sole rape crisis center for Fulton County's nearly 1 million residents, also withheld evidence when patients made signed requests to hand it to investigators. Police would leave the kits at the hospital, or refuse to pick them up.

The bill does not currently address rape kits that are in hospital storage.

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