The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has admitted to the County Board of Supervisors that they have failed to test over 5,600 rape kits with evidence of sexual assaults and other crimes. However, those same officials also state that they are not sure of the total number of kits that have gone untested. The reason they do not know the exact number is that smaller cities and towns contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to test their rape kits and they have not reported the number of their untested items. Recently, the LAPD admitted to the failure to test in excess of 7,000 rape kits that they have in their possession.
The real fear is that if the tests have not been completed within 10 years of the date of the crime, then the statute of limitations will expire. After ten years, if the criminal is caught, the State may not prosecute the rapist. Therefore, Sheriff’s Department will give priority to the rape kits that are the oldest.
Many people do not know what are in the rape kits, to clarify the contents, I will explain what is often in these kits. As a former senior District Attorney now defending serious crimes, I have learned that these kits often times contain body fluids, finger nail scrapings, DNA and other items used to identify specific individuals.
Once these items are tested and the suspect is identified, then the evidence from the rape kits will be used in a court to prove the identity of the rapist.
One of the main concerns in the past has been that the detectives on a case determine whether to test for DNA. In some cases if there has been a confession from a suspect to a sexual assault, the detectives have not asked for follow-up confirmation by testing. Unfortunately, history and studies have shown that people falsely confess to crimes. For that reason alone, all rape kits should be tested no matter whether the police believe they have the correct suspect or not.