Why were some sexual assault kits not submitted for testing?
Prior to 2019, sexual assault kits were not submitted for many different reasons. The biggest factor was Montana did not have legislation for jurisdictions to follow regarding testing sexual assault kits. Additionally, some of the most common reasons include: The accused person pled guilty, and no kit was needed to prove the case; law enforcement investigation did not result in charges; prosecution was declined; the survivor chose to discontinue their involvement in the case; and often, it is due to a lack of resources and training for all involved to understand the importance of testing sexual assault kits to identify repeat offenders and link cases together.
Why is my sexual assault kit getting tested now?
The Montana Department of Justice recognized the importance of examining previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits in our state. Research and case experience supports the value of collecting and testing sexual assault evidence. Advances in science and technology can be leveraged to the benefit of these investigations more today than ever before. Cases may be linked, and serial offenders identified, which may prevent subsequent assault. For further information regarding your case, we encourage you to contact our SAKI Information Hotline at 888-548-5463.
What measures help prevent another backlog of sexual kits?
A significant change in Montana was the passing of Senate Bill 52. This bill went into effect October 2019. It sets statewide uniform policies and procedures for jurisdictions to follow regarding sexual assault kit testing. In addition, the bill established a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system. Healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, and crime laboratories must use the system. However, to address this issue that has evolved over time, it is a very complex process and it continues to be a work in progress. The SAKI team works with a multidisciplinary team of subject matter experts to review current practices, identify challenges, conduct field trainings, and develop a path forward. This is a systemic approach to the issue of backlogged sexual assault kits.
What is CODIS?
The Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, blends forensic science and computer technology into a tool for linking violent crimes. It enables federal, state, and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking serial violent crimes to each other and to known offenders. CODIS generates investigative leads in cases where biological evidence is recovered from the crime scene. Matches made among profiles in the Forensic Index can link crime scenes together, possibly identifying serial offenders. Based upon a match, police from multiple jurisdictions can coordinate their respective investigations and share the leads they developed independently. Matches made between the Forensic and Offender Indexes provide investigators with the identity of suspected perpetrators. Since names and other personally identifiable information are not stored at NDIS, qualified DNA analysts in the laboratories sharing matching profiles contact each other to confirm the candidate match.