Cases of rape and sexual assault pose challenges in terms of prosecuting the offenders for several reasons. Victims of sex crimes may be reluctant to press charges or even to tell anyone about the attack, either because they fear that people will blame them or not believe them or because they want to avoid reliving the trauma of the assault. Sophisticated methods of DNA testing have made it much easier to prove the innocence or guilt of defendants in sexual assault cases. Sexual assault kits and the rules governing their use are designed to bring justice to survivors of sexual assault and to prevent innocent defendants from being convicted of crimes that, in many cases, carry both harsh punishments and a social stigma. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about sexual assault kits in Texas.
Q: What is House Bill 2626, and How Does it Affect Survivors of Sexual Assault?
A: House Bill 2626 was introduced in 2009, and it modified the previous rules regarding sexual assault kits; it introduced the Non-Reported Sexual Assault Program in its current form. Under the new law, victims of sexual assault have the right to a medical examination in which evidence of the assault is collected, but they are not required to pay for the examination. No representatives of law enforcement need be present during the examination, nor must they even know about it until the victim decides to notify them. The purpose of the bill was to address the problem that many sexual assault survivors do not report the assaults to police until it is too late to collect DNA evidence, making sexual assault cases difficult to solve. With the current set of rules, a survivor of sexual assault can be examined now but not have to make an immediate decision about pressing charges.
Q: What is the Latest News About the Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits?
A: In 2011, Texas became one of the first states to pass legislation stipulating that all sexual assault kits must be submitted for testing within 30 days of collection. The purpose of the 2011 law was to address the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. As of early 2017, nearly 19,000 kits remained untested, but as of January 2018, more than 80% of the previously untested kits have been tested.
Q: How do Texas Sexual Assault Kit Policies Protect Defendants?
A: While trace amounts of a defendant’s DNA at a crime scene do not definitively point to the defendant’s guilt, substantial amounts of a defendant’s DNA collected from a victim’s body shortly after an alleged assault represent very strong evidence. Just as DNA evidence can prove who the perpetrator is, it can also prove who the perpetrator is not. Laws that encourage sexual assault survivors to undergo forensic medical examinations by making the process less financially and emotionally stressful for them also reduce the possibility for false accusations leading to the conviction of innocent people.
Contact Madrid Law About Sexual Assault Cases
DNA evidence has led to major changes in the way sex-related crimes are investigated. Contact Madrid Law in Houston if you are facing sexual assault charges.