August 24, 2017
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt issued the following statement after the Interim Finance Committee’s unanimous, bipartisan approval of a new initiative to help reduce Nevada’s backlog of sexual assault evidence kits. The Laxalt-led initiative aimed at supporting the mandatory testing of sexual assault kits throughout the State, provides funding for a transition from the current practice of outsourcing kits to a system that incorporates significantly more in-house testing by county forensic laboratories. In the 2017 Legislative Session, Assembly Bill (AB) 97 was passed to mandate the scheduled testing of sexual assault kits in Nevada and allocates $3,000,000 to designated forensic laboratories in the State to help the laboratories comply with the new law. At this morning’s Interim Finance Committee meeting, the new testing initiative included a proposal that $1,350,000 in non-taxpayer settlement monies from the Attorney General’s Office be used to augment this appropriation:
“After working for the last two years to secure funding to test backlogged kits, our next goal was to ensure that Nevada honors future victims and survivors of sexual assault through mandatory testing of new kits. Today’s initiative is a significant step towards making mandatory testing in Nevada a reality. I express sincere thanks to Nevada’s Legislature for their partnership in this initiative and for their unanimous bipartisan support of the Office of Attorney General on this important issue.”
In September 2015, AG Laxalt announced that his office pledged over $3.68 million in funding to help reduce Nevada’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits. The secured funds were made available through a $1,983,533 Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant program and a $1,700,000 non-taxpayer Bureau of Consumer Protection settlement monies. In December 2015, Nevada’s Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved these funds to address the State’s untested sexual assault kits. In October 2016, the Office of the Attorney General received two additional grants to address the State’s backlog, including a $1,962,414 grant awarded by the Bureau of Justice Association to increase investigative and prosecutorial resources throughout the State, and an additional $523,268 in federal grant funds to enable the research and implementation of the Sexual Assault Kit tracking and record-keeping systems.
AG Laxalt continues to chair a regularly convening Sexual Assault Kit Working Group to develop strategies and best practices to complete the analysis of untested sexual assault kits. The group collectively addresses policy matters associated with testing of the kits for local governments including: victim notification, statewide training, resources for victims, testing of sexual assault kits collected in connection with a crime, entering all eligible DNA profiles into CODIS, following up on investigative leads, identification of subjects, prosecuting cases associated with these kits, collecting data for academic research, and identifying statewide resources, processes and legislation to prevent future backlogs.
A sexual assault kit is used to collect physical evidence during an invasive and lengthy examination conducted at a hospital or rape crisis center following a sexual assault. Generally, these kits contain a checklist, materials and instructions, as well as a means to package any specimens collected during the examination.
According to local prosecutors, the testing of Nevada’s backlogged kits has led to the DNA identification of serial sexual predators and resulted in a total of 11 criminal prosecutions to date.