S.D. House panel supports keeping rape kits seven years, giving more time for decisions

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Law enforcement agencies would have to preserve evidence longer in South Dakota in cases where victims of alleged rapes haven’t decided whether to seek prosecution, under a proposal that a Legislature committee considered Monday.

HB 1074 would require what are known as rape kits be kept for at least seven years or until the person reaches age 25, whichever is longer, when victims haven’t made decisions. The current law requires evidence be kept at least one year in those cases.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed passage 10-0. The bill now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Tim Reed, R-Brookings, is prime sponsor. He said cases involving victims who want investigations already have timelines requiring the local law enforcement agency to pass the kit along to the state Division of Criminal Investigation within 14 days. DCI then has 90 days to test it.

The cases Reed wants to address involve those who haven’t made decisions.

“These are the unreported kits,” he said. “We are only talking about the anonymous kits that have not been processed.”

Other states in the region range from one year in Montana, up to 20 years in Nebraska. North Dakota is seven years.

“It gives them much more time to come forward,” Reed said.

Dianna Miller, a lobbyist representing the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, testified for the bill. She thanked Reed for meeting with domestic violence and human trafficking groups.

Miller told the committee one year isn’t sufficient time for people who have gone through sexual trauma and have been trying to decide. “Sometimes it takes years,” she said.

Naomi Ludeman Smith, a lobbyist representing South Dakota Leaders Engaged and Determined (known as LEAD), also spoke in support.

No one testified against it.

Representative Dayle Hammock, a Spearfish Republican, asked about the storage location. Reed said rape kits are completed in hospitals, then coded with the victims receiving the codes, and law enforcement are then called to take the evidence.

Reed said kits weren’t processed for DNA until victims decide to proceed with prosecution.

Representative Mike Diedrich, a Rapid City Republican, asked about the contents of a rape kit.

Hammock, a retired law enforcement officer, said there could be semen, blood, hair, fingernail scrapings or anything else the other person might have left.

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