Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will push for legislation mandating the timely submission of physical evidence in sexual assault cases, her office announced this week. The legislation would make Illinois the first state in the country to require such evidence.
"Women who are victims of rape put their trust in authorities to bring their offenders to justice," Madigan said. "When evidence that is so painstakingly collected sits untested, stored away on police departments' shelves, that trust is violated.
"This legislation will put Illinois at the forefront of this issue and help bring about justice for victims."
The bill was sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Toi Hutchinson and Rep. Emily McCasey. Under its provisions, law enforcement would have to submit rape kits and other physical evidence from sex crimes within 10 days of receiving the evidence from the hospital.
In part, the purpose of the legislation is to ensure that extremely distressing process of undergoing these examinations doesn't go to waste. From The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois):
"When a rape victim agrees to the lengthy and invasive process of evidence collection from her body, she does so fully believing that that evidence will be delivered to the lab and analyzed," said Lyn Schollett, general counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "When that evidence is not delivered -- when it is abandoned in evidence lockers or left at a police station -- the victim is further traumatized and the public trust is betrayed."
The bill comes after last summer's discovery by the Chicago Tribune that rape kits in many suburban Chicago areas were sitting on shelves for a year or longer, with the police choosing not to test them. Both of the bill's legislative sponsors represent the Chicago suburbs.