Rape kits are a crucial bit of evidence in many cases in which a victim is claiming rape. The way that these kits are handled is something that can impact how the kits and resulting information are used in criminal cases. There have been reports of these kits being destroyed by police departments in Maryland. That tidbit of information has enraged lawmakers, who are calling for the implementation of uniform standards in how these kits are stored and processed in this state.
The main issue at hand is that there isn’t single method for storing or processing these kits. Each jurisdiction sets its own rules. The jurisdictions may or may not test the kits. Some jurisdictions destroy kits, and others hang onto the kits. The issue here is that if a kit isn’t tested before it is destroyed and then prosecution needs to occur, that crucial bit of evidence is missing.
Proponents of the measure to set uniform standards note that this could be useful in single cases, but that it could also help in cases involving serial rapists. Without having rape kits tested or available for testing, serial rapists might not be caught as quickly.
Some people note that not all rape kits provide valuable information. For example, if the alleged victim knows the person he or she is saying was the rapist, there isn’t always a need to process a rape kit for identity. Of course, in those cases, the rape kit could be used as a tool to confirm that identity.
As it stands now, where a rape occurs has an impact on how rape kits are handled. This could mean that accused rapists in one county have to combat the evidence gathered in the kit, while an accused rapist in another county won’t have to worry about that point.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Maryland lawmakers call for uniform police standards on rape kits,” Alison Knezevich and Catherine Rentz, Dec. 09, 2016
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