Rape kit evidence must be preserved for 8 years under bill House panel advances
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/4/23-Rep. Rachel Saunders Plakon, R-Lake Mary, during the Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

The bill proposes to standardize the handling of this evidence just in case the victim changes her mind about whether to make a complaint.

An advancing bill would require rape kit evidence to be stored for at least eight years after being gathered, even if a crime was not reported to law enforcement.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee gave its nod to legislation (HB 607) that Republican Rep. Rachel Plakon of Lake Mary proposed. Orlando-area Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart has introduced a similar bill (SB 764) awaiting its first committee hearing.

The bill is an effort to standardize the handling of this evidence just in case the victim changes his or her mind about whether to make a police report about it, Plakon explained.

“Under current law, there is no clear guidance on retention and sometimes kits from nonreporting victims are destroyed,” she said. “If the victim chooses to report years later, this bill will help give the survivor time to come forward and will help prevent false charges of a defendant.”

The bill next heads to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

The handling of rape kits has come under scrutiny in recent years. A 2021 law, Gail’s Law, allows for rape survivors to track the location and status of the evidence collected in a rape kit. It was passed in response to news of a massive backlog of untested rape kits. The rape kit of the “Gail” in Gail’s Law sat untested for 32 years.

Currently, the chain of custody for this sexual assault evidence is very clear if the victim reports a crime to law enforcement, but it hasn’t been standardized in the case of those who don’t make a formal report to police.

The law allows for longer periods between a crime and prosecution when the offense involves sexual battery. The prosecution of a sexual battery involving a minor younger than 16, for example, can start at any time.

If not reported within 72 hours of the incident, a first- or second-degree felony sexual battery involving a victim 16 or older must commence within eight years, according to the statute of limitations.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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    • rick whitaker

      December 12, 2023 at 5:19 pm


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