Lawmakers Move Toward Keeping Rape Kits Longer

Feb 7, 2017

Vials of evidence from sexual assault cases, like the ones seen here, are allowed to be thrown out once a child turns 20 under current law.
Credit Pat Sullivan / AP

Lawmakers in Richmond aren’t disagreeing on everything. One issue Republicans and Democrats are working together on is helping victims of sexual assault.

How long should police keep evidence collected from the sexual assault of a child? Under current law, those rape kits are thrown away when the child turns 20. Democratic Delegate Mark Levine says that’s unacceptable, so he’s pushing a bill that would require law-enforcement officials to keep the evidence longer.

“By the time a young person is 28 years old, I think they have both the financial wherewithal and perhaps as importantly the emotional wherewithal — maybe they’ve had some therapy to go through what happened to them as young person — to be able to say OK I’m ready to prosecute.”

The bill also requires police to keep rape kits from adults for 10 years if the victims ask for it, even if they aren’t ready to prosecute. Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol helped craft the legislation.

“Being able to hold out a decision, and hold out the evidence while a survivor is able to work through some of the trauma that he or she has experienced, that’s more likely to lead to not only a healing outcome for that survivor but greater public safety for all of us.”

The measure passed the House with a unanimous vote this week, and now heads over to the Senate.