Ohio lawmakers to vote today on rape kit tracking system for victims

Victims of sexual assault would be given a tool for tracking their own rape kit as their case is being investigated, under a bill Ohio lawmakers may vote on this afternoon.

The legislation gained traction after Governor-elect Mike DeWine, the current attorney general, collected and tested nearly 14,000 rape kits in cold cases across Ohio — a project that he championed while on the campaign trail.

Related: Ohio investigators test 14,000 backlogged rape kits

House Bill 719 and Senate Bill 323 call for the creation of a statewide sexual assault exam kit tracking system through the Attorney General’s office.

Kits would be tracked through the criminal justice system: collection, inventory and storage, crime lab analysis and prosecution. Individuals would be able to anonymously access the tracking system to check the status of their own exam kit.

Information in the system would be confidential and not subject to public disclosure, if the legislation becomes law. Federal grants are expected to cover the cost, according to the Attorney General’s office.

In August, DeWine announced he formed an expert panel to make recommendations on the best way to establish a rape kit tracking system.

“The program will increase transparency surrounding the collection, submission, and analysis of sexual assault kit evidence in Ohio by giving those who have undergone a sexual assault forensic examination the option to track the status of their rape kit evidence online,” the Attorney General’s office announced.

HB719 was slated for a House floor vote last week but Speaker Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, put it on pause when Democrats indicated they wanted to attach changes to the bill to lift the statute of limitations on rape.

Smith said that area of the law is complex and should not be amended without extensive discussion.

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“It’s a discussion worth having. It’s a very emotional discussion and it should be but it’s not something where we can throw out an amendment and decide what to do with it on the House floor,” Smith said.

Both bills have backing from the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

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