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Bill would set rules for DNA evidence processing

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FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A proposed bill filed by a Northeast Florida state representative in September would require the submission of DNA evidence in a sexual assault investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within 21 days of collection.

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, filed the bill in response to nationwide news stories that reported thousands of untested rape kits remained in police evidence lockers throughout the state of Florida.

Adkins' legislation would require the FDLE to adopt rules for forensic medical evidence collected with an alleged sexual assault. House Bill 179 also proposes that the FDLE create a plan to analyze the untested backlog of kits and that all kits be analyzed by June 30, 2017.

"There is a reasonable expectation that when DNA evidence is collected it will be tested," Adkins said in a news release. "Victims of sexual assault deserve justice. It is important that we establish a statewide standard that will insure that these DNA kits are sent in a timely manner for testing and inclusion in the statewide DNA database."

HB 179 would create a new Florida Statute requiring that DNA evidence collected in sexual assault investigations be submitted for processing within 21 days of collection; provide a provision for a demand by the alleged victim for earlier submission; require that the alleged victim be informed of the right to demand earlier submission; require rulemaking and providing requirement for rules and require the FDLE to report on how it will analyze the unanalyzed forensic evidence in sexual assault cases currently held in the statewide criminal analysis laboratory system.

The bill has been referred to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, the Judiciary Committee and the Justice Appropriations Committee. The 2016 Legislative Session begins Jan. 12.