Lawmakers considering changes to bill that would require rape kits to be tested within 30 days

Legislators said it could be amended to 60 days, not take effect until 2024
tbi sexual assault kits
Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 03:13:52-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new bill to limit how long a sexual assault kit can go untested is gaining support.

SB 0014 would require the TBI to test the evidence within 30 days.

According to the TBI, it currently takes 33 weeks, on average, to process the evidence in a sexual assault kit.

At a committee meeting on Tuesday, state lawmakers asked the agency what they've done on their own to speed up testing.

"Unfortunately, as I've discussed with many of you, that's largely been robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Patrick Powell, TBI Policy Director. "We've had to neglect other areas of forensic biology to focus on the sexual assault kits."

Powell said what they really need is more people.

Last year, state lawmakers approved funding for 25 new forensic scientists. In his 2023-2024 budget, Governor Bill Lee is proposing money for 25 more.

After the TBI testimony, legislators decided the new bill needs some work. They discussed changing it to 60 days and not making the requirement effective until July 1, 2024. By then, TBI could potentially have 50 new scientists trained and working. New forensic scientists must take 18 months of training before testing a sexual assault kit.

State Senator London Lamar filed the legislation. Lamar represents Memphis, where, in September, police said a teacher was killed by a man who raped and kidnapped another woman a year before. That rape kit hadn't been tested yet.