Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) received unanimous support in Springfield for her measure to empower sexual assault victims. House Bill 528 requires the Illinois State Police (ISP) to create and operate a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. It also creates a commission to help ISP to develop the guidelines related to the tracking system. HB 528 passed the Senate on May 29th on a 55-0 vote. It passed the House on March 14th on a 107-0 vote.
“The current handling of sexual assault evidence is rife with confusion and human error,” Rep. McDermed said. “I applaud the steps ISP was already taking to make this process easier and more effective for sexual assault victims, but we need to do better.”
After a number of untested rape kits were found in local law enforcement evidence rooms, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law in 2011 to require local law enforcement agencies to send thousands of untested rape kits to the state crime lab run by ISP. This was a step in the right direction for crimes that may have gone uninvestigated, but created other problems and muddled the chain of custody.
“The process of collecting these kits is difficult enough, we owe it to these victims to give them clarity on the status of their case,” Rep. McDermed continued. “No rape kit should go untested and no victim should go without critical information pertaining to their assault.”
A critical part of ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault is the proper handling, and transparency in the processing, of evidence kits. HB 528 creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, a group that will work with ISP to create and develop the tracking system. The bill brings together relevant actors from the state police, testing labs, local law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and victim’s rights groups to discuss how to handle transfers of evidence, testing, payment for testing, and other important factors.
“Transparency and accountability in the evidence process is key to decreasing the likelihood of error, lessening the state’s rape kit backlog, and bringing more offenders to justice,” stated Rep. McDermed.
The bill received widespread support from across the state and the nation, including the Joyful Heart Foundation. HB 528 will next be sent to the Governor who is expected to sign it in to law.