Prior to the passage of SB1636*, Texas law enforcement had significant discretion regarding the submission and testing of evidence related to a sexual assault. Law enforcement agencies have traditionally used discretion in submitting SAKs due to concerns of cost and utility. Testing costs approximately $1,000 per SAK, and many law enforcement officials have thought that testing kits in acquaintance cases and cases in which suspects have already admitted guilt was unnecessary. As a result, experts estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of untested kits nationwide.
In 2011, Texas became the second state in the country to enact legislation mandating universal testing of sexual assault kits. After becoming aware of the existence of at least 20,000 untested SAKs in storage across the state, legislators passed SB1636. The law required law enforcement agencies to count and submit previously untested SAKs to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) or another accredited laboratory; DPS to report on the number of previously untested SAKs collected and request funding to test these SAKs; and law enforcement agencies to submit all newly collected SAKs for testing.
1) Beginning September 1, 2011, all sexual assault kits that are collected must be submitted to a lab for testing.
Specifically, law enforcement agencies are mandated to submit sexual assault evidence to a forensic lab within 30 days after receiving the evidence.
2) The new law required a one-time audit of all untested sexual assault kits in Texas.
By October 15, 2011, every law enforcement agency in Texas should have submitted a list to DPS of their agency’s active criminal cases for which sexual assault evidence had not previously been submitted to a forensic lab. The law required DPS to report to the governor and the Texas House of Representatives concerning the numbers of SAKs across the stat; this count is ongoing.
3) The law mandated testing of any untested sexual assault kits that were collected on September 1st, 1996 or after, if resources are available.
By April 1, 2012, every law enforcement agency in Texas should have submitted all sexual assault evidence connected to an “active criminal case” (and included on their previously submitted list) to DPS or another accredited public laboratory for testing.
While funds were not available at the time of bill passage, $10.8 million was appropriated to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) during the FY 2013-2014 biennium to test previously untested kits.
The DPS has created a spreadsheet regarding the number of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits reported to the Department by agency and the status of the outsourcing of those kits. This spreadsheet is updated on a regular basis.
* SB1636 (82 R) amended Texas Government Code, Chapter 420 effective September 1, 2011. To increase readability we refer to the amended sections of Chapter 420, Government Code as ‘SB1636.’