SB 1449 ‘Will Help Ensure Justice for Survivors and Keep Rapists Off Our Streets’
SACRAMENTO – With strong bipartisan support, the California State Senate this week passed important legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will require law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to promptly analyze and test all newly collected rape kit evidence in California.
Sponsored by the Joyful Heart Foundation, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and Natasha’s Justice Project, SB 1449 follows federal best practices and ensures that victims reporting sexual assault across California will have equal access to swift submission and analysis of forensic evidence associated with their cases. In order to prevent the development of backlogs of forensic evidence in evidence rooms or laboratories, newly collected rape kits must be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt. Promptly testing DNA evidence in rape kits can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
“SB 1449 will help to ensure that survivors of rape have equal access to justice by promptly testing all rape kits collected after an assault. It is critically important that any DNA evidence left behind by the attacker is processed quickly so that law enforcement authorities can identify and prosecute rapists and we can put them behind bars—where they belong,” Senator Leyva said. “It is unacceptable for a rape kit to ever sit on a shelf somewhere untested, since that rape kit represents a person and testing that kit can also help keep potential victims safe. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this long overdue legislation that will help ensure justice for survivors and keep rapists off our streets.”
As a companion bill to SB 1449, AB 3118—authored by Assemblymember David Chiu and coauthored by Senator Leyva—will require each law enforcement agency, crime lab, medical facility, or any other facility that possesses sexual assault evidence kits to conduct an audit of all untested kits in its possession and report findings to the Department of Justice.
Currently serving as the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016 and to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017. The Senator is also presently leading efforts to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination in California (SB 820) and protect victims of harassment from retaliation (SB 1038).
Now advancing to the Assembly, SB 1449 is supported by the California District Attorneys Association, City of Sacramento, Crime Victims United, State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, Investigative Lead LLC, Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association and San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.