Evidence Collection in Sexual Assault Cases
Recently, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 636, which makes significant changes to the law regarding evidence collection in sexual assault cases. The new law could have an important impact on how evidence is collected and tested in pending sex offense cases, so if you were recently charged with a sex crime, it is vital to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that the prosecutor adheres to all necessary procedural requirements and that you receive a fair trial.
Senate Bill 636
The new law requires law enforcement agencies to submit sexual-assault evidence kits to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within a month of:
- Receiving the evidence, if the alleged sexual offense was reported, or
- Receiving a request for testing.
The only individuals who are permitted to make this request include:
- The alleged victim;
- The alleged victim’s parent, guardian, or legal representative if the victim is a minor; or
- The alleged victim’s personal representative if the victim is deceased.
If a sexual-assault evidence kit was not collected, law enforcement will be required to submit any DNA evidence in their possession for forensic testing within 30 days of receipt of the evidence or of the request for testing. This could include a variety of DNA-containing evidence, including clothing, bedding, and personal items. Furthermore, all collected evidence must be stored in a secure and environmentally safe location to ensure that it is not contaminated.
Drafting New Guidelines
The new law also calls for the adoption of new guidelines and procedures for collecting, submitting, and testing DNA evidence obtained in connection with an alleged sex crime by January 1, 2017. According to Florida lawmakers, the guidelines must include:
- A requirement that rape kit testing be completed within 120 days of its submission to a criminal analysis laboratory;
- Standards for how and what types of evidence must be packaged and submitted for testing; and
- Timeframes regulating when evidence must be submitted, analyzed, and compared to samples in DNA databases.
Contact a Dedicated South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
The improper collection, storage, and testing of DNA evidence and rape kits can and has had devastating consequences for both victims and alleged offenders. For instance, an improper identification based on tainted evidence can result in a defendant being wrongly convicted and placed on a sex offender registry. The new law will go a long way towards ensuring that evidence is collected in an appropriate environment and is safely and accurately tested. If you or a loved one have been charged with a sex offense, it is critical to obtain the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with evidentiary procedures and can ensure that your case is tried fairly. Please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 or by completing and submitting one of our standard contact forms and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with a dedicated South Florida criminal defense attorney.