Rape kits must be kept for 50 years under ‘revolutionary’ bill helping victims
Police scientist holds evidence bag with underwear of sexual assault victim in crime lab, concept image

Police scientist holds evidence bag with underwear of sexual assault victim in crime lab, concept image
The House passed SB 764 Tuesday with a vote of 112-1.

The Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that one lawmaker called “revolutionary for our state” in helping rape victims when they are ready to come forward and file a police report.

“Under current law, there’s no guidance on how long local law enforcement should keep sexual assault kits if a victim does not report the crime right away, and as a consequence, too many of these kits have been thrown away before the victim could come forward,” Rep. Rachel Saunders Plakon, a Republican from Lake Mary, said Tuesday on the House floor. “What this bill really does is give the survivor time.”

Under SB 764, rape kit evidence and DNA evidence must be kept for at least 50 years if the crime goes unreported to law enforcement. The evidence must be stored anonymously and securely by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“The 50-year DNA retention limitation for possible DNA evidence in non-reported sexual offenses provides a date certain for evidence disposal by the department while allowing a nonreporting alleged victim time to decide to report the sexual offense,” according to a staff analysis.

Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orlando, sponsored the Senate’s version of the bill while Saunders Plakton sponsored the House companion (HB 607).

Organizations that support sexual assault victims say shame, fear no one will believe them, and think it’s their fault are some of the reasons that keep victims from contacting authorities right away to report the crimes.

“Victims will now be able to gain a little more time to heal before their cases are prosecuted, and up to 50 years later, long after the statute of limitations on most crimes, victims’ evidence can still be used to help solve other cases,” Saunders Plakon said. “Imagine that someday we will all read about the justice and the healing that prevail because of this bill.”

The Senate approved SB 764 unanimously Feb. 28 while the House passed it Tuesday with a vote of 112-1.

Rep. Mike Giallombardo, a Republican from Cape Coral, was the lone dissenting vote Tuesday. His office said Wednesday he had pressed the wrong button and was intending to vote yes when Florida Politics reached out for comment.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 6, 2024 at 1:24 pm

    And have they been granted Personhood yet?

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