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Developing Empirically Informed Policies for Sexual Assault Kit DNA Testing: Is It Too Late to Test Kits Beyond the Statute of Limitations?

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Dated: 2016
Date Published
March 2016
0 pages
In order to address a gap in the research literature and to inform policy regarding rape kit testing, this study randomly sampled 700 previously untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) from Detroit, MI; 350 were presumed to be beyond the statute of limitations (SOL) for prosecution (based on the date the SAK was collected), and 350 were still within the SOL.
A growing body of research indicates that there are thousands of SAKs that have never been submitted for DNA forensic testing. Some of these rape kits may be quite dated, and the statute of limitations (SOL) for prosecution of the case may have expired. Whether testing such kits could still provide useful information for criminal justice system personnel is unknown. The current study submitted all SAKs for DNA testing, and then quantified and compared the forensic testing outcomes. At issue was whether these older SAKs would yield DNA profiles that were eligible for entry into Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the Federal DNA forensic database, and whether these profiles would match ("hit") to other criminal offenses catalogued in CODIS. Rates for presumed SOL-expired SAKs and unexpired SAKs were compared via a continuation-ratio model and equivalence tests. The rates of CODIS-eligible DNA profiles, CODIS hits, and serial sexual assault CODIS hits were statistically equivalent in the SOL-expired and SOL-unexpired groups. Testing older SAKs has potential utility to the criminal justice system, because these kits produced DNA matches to other crimes, including other sexual assault crimes, at a rate equivalent to current, SOL-unexpired SAKs. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: March 1, 2016