HB 31 Is One Piece of Ongoing Rape Kit Reform Effort
Juneau – Today, the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed important public safety legislation introduced by Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) that will ensure sexual assault victims have a victim-centered approach to reporting their assault, improve law enforcement handling of sexual assault crimes, and help the legislature address the backlog of untested kits by requiring an annual audit of progress on testing the kits.
“We know that when tested, the DNA evidence in sexual assault kits can be a powerful tool to solve and prevent crime,” said Representative Tarr. “We’ve seen this before with DNA evidence being used to convict Clifford Lee, an Alaska serial rapist linked to crimes spanning over a decade. It is time to put public safety for Alaska women and families to the forefront and eliminate the injustice of leaving evidence to gather dust on a shelf.”
“The passage of this legislation is a victory for the victims and survivors affected by sexual violence. Alaskans know these stories all too well; I am hopeful with the passage of this necessary legislation and funding in the capital budget, we will help bring justice and closure to families and communities across Alaska. Today is a good day,” said Senator Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
House Bill 31 will provide a victim-centered approach by allowing two reporting options following the assault; an individual can report the crime to law enforcement following the assault, or have the evidence collected anonymously. Anonymous victim reporting does not require the victim to make contact with law enforcement or report a crime in order to preserve time-sensitive evidence. They reserve the right to report the crime in the future when they have recovered from the emotional trauma. Alaska law enforcement’s handling of sexual assault cases will improve by requiring law enforcement officers to have 12 hours of training on sexual assault response. HB 31 also requires an annual audit of untested sexual assault kits and the progress on the work towards testing the backlog so that the legislature can change policy or consider funding necessary to test every kit and prosecute all criminals.
House Bill 31 passed the Alaska State Senate today by a unanimous 20-0 vote. The bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously last year by a vote of 39-0. The bill now returns to the House to concur with the Senate’s changes before proceeding to the Governor for his signature.
For more information, please contact Diana Rhoades in Rep. Tarr’s office at (907) 465-3424.
Correction: A previous version of this message omitted the House’s concurrence vote before the bill is ready for the Governor’s signature.