Bills continue Johnson’s efforts to address mishandling of rape kits

LANSING – A comprehensive, bipartisan package of legislation sponsored by Senator Bert Johnson (D–Detroit) designed to aid victims of sexual assault passed unanimously out of the full Senate today. The Sexual Assault Victim’s Access to Justice Act, Senate Bill 1004, would require that victims receive certain information relating to evidence and investigation of their case. Another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1021, would extend the period during which hospital personnel must inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits.

“Many months of collaboration and hard work have gone into this incredibly important legislation,” Sen. Johnson said. “Today’s bill passage is an important step toward improving evidence collection and ensuring justice for more victims of sexual assault, and I hope that Governor Snyder will act swiftly to sign these bills into law.”

The Sexual Assault Victim’s Access to Justice Act, Senate Bill 1004, would require that law enforcement agencies inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits and other information relating to evidence and investigation of the case. It would also require law enforcement to provide victims with contact information for local, community-based sexual assault services programs if available.

Under current Michigan law, sexual assault evidence kits must be offered to victims only within 24 hours of the alleged assault. Senate Bill 1021 would change the law to reflect medical advances so that evidence kits would have to be offered to victims up to 120 hours after the crime. Doing so would bring Michigan in line with states that have adjusted their laws to reflect such medical advances in kit testing.

“Sexual assault evidence kits often play a crucial role in these cases,” Sen. Johnson said. “Thanks to modern medical advances, we should be able to collect and process more of them. I am confident that this legislation will help us do just that. We also continue to make legislative advances today to ensure we never again have a major backlog of untested rape kits.”

A third bill in the package, Senate Bill 998, cosponsored by Sen. Johnson, also passed the Senate today. The bill creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Tracking and Reporting Act and establishes a commission and database of information for tracking and reporting evidence kits. Senate Bills 1004, 1021 and 998 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Johnson has collaborated with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with the Michigan State Police, the Office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and various victims’ rights groups over the past several months to find solutions to the systemic problem of how our state handles sexual assault cases.