The Florida Legislature should answer Attorney General Pam Bondi's call for eliminating an unconscionable backlog of untested rape kits that are languishing in law enforcement evidence rooms all over the state. Kits can contain DNA specimens that put attackers in jail and make streets safer for everyone. Lawmakers should make sure Florida's crime labs have enough funding to make rape kit testing a top priority.
Rape victims are asked to forgo showers and submit to heart-rending procedures for collecting DNA that attackers might leave behind. This evidence helps authorities prosecute the immediate crime, and it is entered into a nationwide DNA database that can solve other assaults as well. Some rape kits, however, remain unprocessed when suspects confess or defendants contend that sexual acts were consensual. Testing costs, which can run $1,000, are a factor, as are long delays at underfunded crime labs. Other states have demonstrated that testing every kit results in more rape convictions, because unexpected DNA matches pop up on the national database.
Bondi estimates that thousands of Florida rape kits remain untested, some for years. A survey to pinpoint their locations is expected to be complete by January, and Florida just received federal grant money to help clear the backlog. The attorney general has wisely made this a priority, and the Legislature should chip in state money next year to make sure the job is completed.