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Florida university receives grant for rape kit testing technology

The associate director of the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University is developing new technology to improve the quality and speed of processing rape kits.

The technology appears to be sorely needed, considering that the Human Rights Watch group estimates there are as many as 400,000 rape kits that have not been tested in Florida and across the United States.

In the case of an untested rape kit, the physical evidence has been collected from the victim of the sex crime, but the law enforcement agency has failed to process it. Some kits are reportedly decades old. Considering the invasive nature of the evidence collection process for those kits, Florida readers might be infuriated by the unexplained backlog.

Improving rape kit testing methods may also be a priority of the Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency recently awarded a $349,000 grant to the Florida university to support further development of the new testing technique, known as pressure cycling technology. The technology saves time by eliminating the need to extract both male and female cells from the swab used to collect the DNA evidence.

The reasons for the backlog are not fully explained. Perhaps testing the rape kits was considered unnecessary in cases where the perpetrator was known to the victim, like in date rape or domestic violence cases. However, in such cases, there remains advantage to processing a rape kit.

Specifically, the evidence could be entered in the Combined DNA Index System database. CODIS is a computer software program that makes it possible for state, local, and national law enforcement crime laboratories to electronically compare DNA profiles of convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons. Once information is in CODIS, it can be used to identify repeat offenders

Of course, with DNA evidence comes the responsibility of complying with the procedural and constitutional protections afforded to defendants in our criminal justice system. An experienced criminal law attorney can ensure that responsibility is met.

Source: ncwtv.com, "Advanced Lab Technique May Expedite Rape Kit Testing," Dec. 5, 2012

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