A bill that would require all sexual assault kits in the state be tested passed unanimously Friday in the Utah House of Representatives.
Democratic State Representative Angela Romero has worked for 3 years to pass this bill. Mounting evidence shows DNA testing of all sexual assault kits collected from victims after an assault provides law enforcement with additional leads resulting in more thorough investigations and prosecutions. Romero says it also helps law enforcement identify serial sex offenders, preventing future crimes and clearing innocent people from being convicted.
Republican State Representative Mike Winder of West Valley City told the body it’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
“I know local governments and local law enforcement are working hard to keep up with the flow that there is,” Winder said. “But this is something that’s to the point of a statewide emergency where we need the state to jump in and help with this.”
Utah received some federal funding to test about half of the statewide backlog of 2700 kits. Romero’s Bill, House Bill 200 asks for $2.4 million to test the rest. In addition to mandating testing, Romero said the bill would create a statewide tracking system to follow the kits and increase training opportunities for first responders and investigators.
“Training will increase understanding of sexual assault, trauma, [and the needs] of victims, investigative techniques and reporting written techniques,” Romero said. “Lastly the training may increase the number of victims participating in the criminal process.”
Romero said the bill would save the state money over time. She said sexual violence costs Utah about $4 billion a year. HB 200 now goes to the Senate for consideration.