Fox Launches Task Force to Address Unsubmitted Sex-assault Evidence Kits in Montana

Attorney General Tim Fox announced today that his office has formed a task force to examine the issue of unsubmitted sexual-assault evidence kits in Montana.

In the course of its investigation into an allegation of sexual assault, a law enforcement agency can request that a victim be examined for physical evidence of the assault. When the investigating agency or prosecutor has determined that the evidence should be submitted to the state crime laboratory for processing, that evidence is processed by the laboratory free of charge.

“In recent months, across the nation we in the law enforcement community have seen growing concerns over unsubmitted evidence kits,” Fox said. “We’re taking a pro-active approach here in Montana, bringing together law enforcement officials, prosecutors, victim advocates, forensic scientists, campus representatives, and more. Our goal is to determine how many unsubmitted evidence kits exist in Montana, the status of those cases, what kits that need to be tested, and then work with local law enforcement agencies and others to make it happen.”

The Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force consists of:

• Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion (representing the Attorney General’s Office)
• Rep. Kim Dudik (D-Missoula)
• Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)
• Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Mary Barry (representing county prosecutors)
• Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman (representing county sheriffs)
• Great Falls Chief of Police David Bowen (representing police chiefs)
• Robin Turner, Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (representing victim advocates)
• Certified sexual-assault nurse examiner (TBD)
• College campus representative (TBD)

Dr. Phil Kinsey and the Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division will provide forensic laboratory expertise and consultation in support of the task force.

The task force will develop a plan for determining the number, dates, and status of unsubmitted evidence kits in the possession of law enforcement agencies. After all necessary information is gathered, work will begin on identifying the kits that need to be tested. Concurrently, the task force will pursue potential funding sources such as federal grants and legislative appropriations during the next session. The task force will also work to develop future protocols for kit submission and testing.

“This will be a long-term, collaborative process involving a broad array of agencies and stakeholders,” Fox emphasized. “Montana’s law enforcement agencies are committed to working together to ensure victims of sexual assault receive the justice they deserve.”

The Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force will hold its first meeting later this year.

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