Sexual Assault Kits. A victim of a sexual assault may undergo a forensic examination to collect evidence related to the assault. A health care practitioner conducts the examination, gathers, and preserves the evidence using a sexual assault kit (SAK). The evidence collected may include clothing fibers, hairs, saliva, blood, semen, and skin debris. After the examination, a law enforcement agency may take custody of the SAK for use during an investigation and subsequent criminal prosecution. The evidence may contain deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) for laboratory testing and may identify the perpetrator from DNA test results. In 2015, the state established mandatory SAK testing requirements. With few exceptions, a law enforcement agency is required to submit a SAK to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory for testing within 30 days of receiving it if the victim consents to the testing.
Law Enforcement Training. The Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) provides basic law enforcement training for new recruits, as well as advanced training and educational programming for certified law enforcement officers. In 2020 the Legislature required CJTC to develop a proposal for a case review program designed to improve outcomes in sexual assault investigations by improving training and investigation practices. The program must evaluate current training and practices to foster a trauma-informed, victim-centered approach to victim interviews and to identify best practices and current gaps in training. The program must include a comparison of cases involving investigators and interviewers who have participated in training, to cases involving investigators and interviewers who have not participated in training. The program must include randomly selected cases for a systematic review to assess whether current practices conform to national best practices to investigating sexual assault cases and interacting with survivors.
Rights of Sexual Assault Survivors. In addition to other rights provided by law, a survivor has the right to:
If any SAK analysis results in a DNA hit, the attorney general shallrequest information on the case status from the law enforcement agency and prosecuting attorney, who must provide the requested information. The attorney general must consult with WASPC when developing procedures for requesting and collecting information on status updates. The attorney general shall report quarterly to the association the investigational status of any sexual assault kit, including the case number, date the SAK was submitted to the crime lab for a forensic examination, date the exam was completed, if the case is open or closed, and the reasons for why a case may be closed. Beginning in 2022, the association must report on information collected to the Governor and Legislature.
The 2020 legislative requirement for CJTC to develop a proposal for a case review program is made into a permanent program. The program must review case files from law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys to identify changes to training and investigation practices necessary to optimize outcomes in sexual assault investigations and prosecutions involving adult victims. The program must include an analysis of the impact race and ethnicity have on sexual assault case outcomes. The program may review files of closed cases involving allegations of adult sexual assault only. Any law enforcement agency or prosecuting attorney selected for the program must make requested case files and other documents available to CJTC, provided the case files are not linked to ongoing, open investigations. Program participants must include available information on the race and ethnicity of all sexual assault victims.
The rights of sexual assault survivors are expanded including:
Other. An emergency clause is added so section 3 of the bill does not expire before the bill takes effect.
PRO: We require every SAK to be tested by mid 2022. The survivors deserve to know what happens with their kit. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs are looking into what has happened to the kits. The AG has a federal grant that has them looking at the CODIS hits. The bill also has a survivor bill of rights. There is also a requirement for case reviews to develop better training by the Criminal Justice Training Commission.
CON: 2015 was when we started asking for resources to look into SAK's. 2020 is when the Legislature provided resources but 2020 was a very difficult year with the pandemic and unrest. We do not think it is a good use of resources to have to report to multiple agencies. Our proposed language is only for changes to sections 1 and 2 of the bill. It strengthens the language on the AGO and WASPC working together; harmonizes the definitions of SAK's between the two sections; clarifies that law enforcement agencies are not required to report the same information to multiple entities; and ensures the AGO has full authority to compel information necessary for the federal grant.