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Archive for the ‘Rape kit testing’ tag

Illinois Senate Reforms Rape Law

May 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Illinois Senate Reforms Rape Law | Cook County Criminal Defense LawyerA crippling backlog of rape kit testing is a problem in different counties and states across the country. Unsurprisingly, the state of Illinois is no exception. Backlogs in rape kit testing – due to numerous factors, ranging from the mishandling of kits to understaffing of testing labs – often caused rape cases to go without being prosecuted, essentially victimizing the one assaulted for the second time. Now, an important change in the law seeks to prevent situations like that from occurring.

Cases Influencing Change

In one case, a woman was beaten and raped in a south suburb of Chicago in 1977. After the incident, the local police department failed to follow through on her case, losing evidence crucial to apprehending a suspect. As a result of their failure to follow through, enough time passed for the statute of limitations to run out on the case, which prevented charges from ever being filed. Despite the failure and the victim’s loss of confidence in the justice system, she continued to fight for change in the law.

Senate Action

This case, in addition to countless others, made the argument to win Senate approval for a law that would allow more than 10 years, the previous applicable statute of limitations that began running the day the crime was committed, to bring charges for rape. The Senate unanimously passed the measure, which now makes the clock begin on the statute of limitations the day a rape kit is examined, and no longer on the day of the crime.

This is an important and significant change, especially in light of the known problems with the backlog of rape kit testing. Prior to 2013, more than 4,000 rape kits from agencies across the state were forwarded to Illinois State Police due to a law passed in 2010, which required all old evidence in sexual assault cases to be sent to state police. The legislation extending the applicable period of the statute of limitations is now set to go to the House.

The Failure to Investigate

Despite officers’ assurance to the victim of the 1977 case that the incident would be investigated, it likely never was. The officers who took the victim’s statements were, in fact, part-time employees. Moreover, there is a strong indication that rape crimes simply were not being investigated by law enforcement at the time this victim was raped. Still, the victim was able to obtain her attacker’s name three years after the crime and presented it to police; her rape kit had been misplaced by that time though.

At that point, the decision not to prosecute such cases was a conscious one. Later, staffing issues and a lack of capacity may have prevented such cases from being investigated. Today, the situation seems to be improving. Officers are being trained in the context of investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults and rape cases.

Criminal Law Attorney

This change represents an important shift in the law that can affect the rights of both victims and defendants. Sexual assault crimes are serious charges, and it is imperative to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you or someone you know is charged with such a crime. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today and schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Chicago and the surrounding area.

Backlog of Rape Kit Testing is a Problem Nationwide

February 7th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Rape Kit Testing IMAGEThe Chicago Tribune recently reported on a story covering the delay in processing and sometimes complete failure of rape kits to be tested by law enforcement and lab workers across the country. The fear of many is that as a result of this failure, victims would not get justice and their attackers would remain free to rape them and potential other victims, as long as they were not in prison. As a result, many concerned citizens are forming organizations and getting involved in groups aimed at eliminating the backlog and coming up with alternative ways of testing rape kits and tracking them.

 Many advocates of the victims allege that the backlog in testing is attributed to the low priority that many sexual assault victims are given by law enforcement. Illinois was the first of four states to mandate the testing of rape kits, which it implemented in 2010. Now, the almost 4,100 kits that were untested at the time have been processed, some decades old. The completed kits were sent back to the appropriate local police departments for further action. The results made 927 matches in the national DNA database, giving law enforcement promising leads.

That law in Illinois gives police 10 business days to transfer completed rape kits to the state crime labs. The labs, in turn, have six months to process the kits. While the law is considered to be a step in the right direction, the conditions under which it must be followed are flexible: police compliance is voluntary and the time limit only applies to labs if they have enough staff and resources for administering the testing. State officials are monitoring the law and looking into how the process can be improved.

In the meantime, backlog problems will likely still exist because of cost, lab staffing, and tracking issues. This means some offenders may never be prosecuted, either because the kits were not tested or the relevant statute of limitations had expired by the time they were. The article reports a statistic echoing this fact. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says that 97 percent of rapists are never incarcerated, due in large part to victims’ failure to report. They estimate that 40 of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to police.

Sexual assault crimes, including rape, are serious offenses that usually involve complicated legal issues that arise within the context of a criminal case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

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