Rape Kit Changes
The crime lab modified the rape kit in spring 2006 and the new kit is available free of charge from the Office of Victim Services. The biggest change was that all liquid blood specimens were eliminated, so that:
- Completed kits no longer have to be refrigerated as long as all items are properly air-dried.
- The known DNA standard is collected exclusively as a buccal swab and not liquid blood.
- A separate kit is required for toxicology samples. Toxicology samples are collected if the victim’s blood and urine need to be tested for drugs and alcohol.
Since the redesign of the rape kit in 2006, two kits may be necessary to perform a rape exam —a rape kit and a toxicology kit— so healthcare facilities should have both kits on hand. A toxicology kit may not always be needed, depending on whether the patient’s blood and urine need to be tested for drugs and alcohol. Each kit has a shelf life and an expiration date printed on the side of the box.
Rape kits are available free of charge from the Forensic Rape Examination Payment Program. Their shelf life is approximately five years.
Toxicology kits are available free of charge from the state crime lab. The best way to order is to call (406) 728-4970 or e-mail [email protected]. Please limit orders to no more than six kits. They will usually ship in one or two days. The approximate shelf life for toxicology kits is nine to 18 months.
Rape Exam Payment
Rape victims are not required to report the crime to law enforcement. The medical expenses incurred for a rape examination are paid by one of two sources, depending on the victim’s decision whether or not to report the crime.
Healthcare professionals caring for rape victims should inform patients that, in most cases, they will not have to pay for the rape exam themselves. Healthcare providers should ask the victim if he or she wishes to report the crime to law enforcement so the correct agency can be billed.
- If the victim chooses to report the crime to law enforcement, the local law enforcement agency in charge of investigating the crime must pay for the rape examination.
- If the victim chooses not to report the crime immediately, the Forensic Rape Examination Payment Program (FREPP), available through the Office of Victim Services, can pay for the exam.
The healthcare facility billing departments should make every effort to work with local law enforcement agencies and FREPP to exhaust all avenues of payment before billing the patient for any part of an exam.
Victims Who Report the Crime
If the victim chooses to report the crime to law enforcement, the rape examination must be paid by the local law enforcement agency in charge of investigating the crime. Even if an offender is not identified or prosecuted, the law enforcement agency is responsible for paying the medical facility in which the examination was performed (MCA 46-15-411).
The law enforcement agency is not responsible for paying for the examination if the crime is not reported.
Victims who report the crime to law enforcement may be eligible for compensation benefits. The Crime Victim Compensation provides assistance to rape victims who need mental health counseling and medical expenses for any related physical injuries. However, to be eligible, the victim must report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours of the crime and meet other eligibility requirements. If the victim does not report the crime within 72 hours, compensation benefits may not be awarded unless the victim can show good cause to extend the time limit.
Victims Who Do Not Report the Crime
If the victim chooses not to report the crime to law enforcement, the FREPP can pay for the rape exam. However, FREPP does not pay for mental health counseling or any other medical charges incurred as a result of the rape.
The healthcare provider should advise the victim that the evidence collected will be held for 1-Year should he or she later decide to report the crime.
The medical facility should submit its charges for the rape exam to FREPP for payment.
Rape kits and toxicology kits come with expiration dates. There are two items in the kits that deteriorate over time:
- blood tubes – the preservative goes bad
- sterile cotton swabs – sterility is compromised
It is highly recommended that healthcare facilities switch to the new Montana rape kits, and have a supply of toxicology kits on hand, since the blood tubes have been removed from the rape kits.
Should the need arise, it is still possible to use an expired, pre-April 2006 kit by replacing the blood tubes and sterile cotton swabs with equivalent items from hospital stock, and noting that this has been done. The remainder of the kit can then be used.