Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Mark Glass announced last week that survivors of sexual violence now have a tool to follow the path of their sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAKs).
Based on a law passed in 2021, the state implemented a web-based tracking system that allows survivors to monitor the location and processing of their barcoded sexual assault kits (SAK) and be notified if a DNA match to an alleged perpetrator occurs.
Previous legislation (F.S. 943.326) required law enforcement to submit SAKs to labs within 30 days and created a 120-day mandatory turnaround time for testing. But the 2021 Gail’s Law (HB 673) took things one step further and gave survivors the power to know the status of their kits throughout the process.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “In 2019, Florida eliminated the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, and today’s announcement is the next, great step forward in supporting victims of sexual assault and empowering survivors to keep track of the evidence in their case as law enforcement and prosecutors fight for justice.”
State CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “In Florida, it’s important that we support survivors of sexual assault and do everything in our power to track down sexual predators. As CFO, I’ve supported measures to crack down on human trafficking and sexual misconduct in our state. These are crimes that are not just heinous, they also leave a lasting emotional impact on the victim and their family for the rest of their lives. I am thankful to FDLE for ensuring sexual assault survivors now have new technology to make what can be a confusing and difficult process more transparent and efficient.”
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson said, “As Senate President, I was proud to support funding for this important system providing survivors access to and control over this critical information. Now, as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, I will continue to do all that I can to support the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and this initiative that is giving power back to those who need it most.”
“Survivors of sexual assault have traditionally had to wait too long for information about the status of their kits. This new database tracking system will allow them to log into a portal for their kit and determine that status. If the system records a DNA match, they will be notified. Users control when and how they receive alerts and can see when laboratory testing is complete,” said Glass.
“I’m happy to see Gail’s Law going into effect statewide this year. After suffering through an assault, many survivors feel powerless in a system that can be overwhelming, confusing and often fails to provide the appropriate support. This system will keep track of all sexual assault kits and, in cases similar to Gail’s, provide closure of their case and may help along the road of recovery,” said state Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando.
Florida Council Against Sexual Violence Executive Director Jennifer Dritt said, “We’re so pleased that FDLE’s rollout of the SAK tracking system is nearly complete. Implementation of this system gives survivors who report to law enforcement ready access to information about the status of the evidence collected from their bodies, demonstrating, once again, Florida’s commitment to providing survivor-centered responses.”
FDLE Deputy Director of Forensic Services Leigh Clark said, “We have trained approximately 700 people, including law enforcement, laboratory personnel and medical providers who collect kits, such that when a barcoded kit is collected from a survivor who reports their assault to the police, the geographic location and status of the SAK is captured and updated. Survivors receive a card with a login and password. They can go to a website and see where the kit is physically located, when it changes hands from the medical facility to storage or into evidence custody, and when law enforcement submits it to the lab.”
FDLE Lab Director Jason Bundy said, “We are happy that this program will clear up so much of the confusion for survivors about what happens to their kits. The program has been very successful to date, and everyone involved should be commended.”
FDLE used grant funding to purchase the STACS Track-Kit™ (InVita Healthcare Technologies), joining approximately a dozen other states who have adopted or intend to implement the online database software.
The chain of custody of all evidence submitted to FDLE crime laboratories is still maintained by its Laboratory Information Management System. The Track-Kit database is a service for survivors.
The database is currently being used by the 41 counties served by FDLE regional operations centers in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola, as well as counties served by the Pinellas County and Indian River crime laboratories.
Since the initial launch of the software in spring 2022 as a pilot project in northeast Florida, the agency has added more than 400 SAKs to the database. Access to the database will expand statewide by July 2023.
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