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U.S. State of California legislation approves bill on handling of DNA evidence

08-23-2010 07:31 BJT

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Lawmakers of the U.S. State of California have approved a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to keep detailed records of all genetic material gathered in rape and sexual assault cases, it was reported on Sunday.

The move is designed to address state lawmakers' concern that police are failing to analyze crucial DNA evidence in rape and sexual assault crimes, the Los Angeles Times said.

The bill, which won support from all but one state senator, now goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his approval or veto.

Under the terms of the proposed bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to submit an annual report to the state Department of Justice detailing, among other things, the number of evidence kits collected that year and how many of those were submitted to laboratories for analysis, according to the report.

"If you have physical evidence against the perpetrator of a heinous crime, you should be processing that evidence," said the bill's author, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. "The hope is that by requiring law enforcement to show how they're performing, it will highlight where the deficiencies are and will bring public scrutiny to the table."

Victims of rape or sexual assault who contact authorities are typically taken to a hospital where semen, saliva or other genetic material left by the assailant is collected and packaged for use by police in their investigations. Laboratory analysts can often extract the unique DNA profile contained in the material, which can then be used to identify the suspect, link him to other crimes or clear the wrongly accused. If investigators fail to have the analysis done before state statutes of limitation expire, the evidence cannot be used to prosecute a suspect.

The impetus for the bill came in late 2008 when the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, under pressure from victim advocacy groups and elected officials, acknowledged that several thousand untested evidence kits were sitting in storage freezers -- some of them dating back more than a decade.

The two agencies launched efforts to inventory and analyze untested material, and announced that, going forward, evidence from all new cases would be processed. Both have eliminated nearly all of their backlogs by contracting with private laboratories to do the analysis. The departments' in-house laboratories, however, have been unable to keep pace with demands for analysis of evidence from new cases.

Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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