Change of Law: Hospital Action Required
To: Chief Nursing Officers, Government Affairs Staff, and Staff in Charge of Services for Sexual Assault Survivors
From: Zosia Stanley, Associate General Counsel | firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 216-2511
Subject: New Requirements to Retain Unreported Sexual Assault Kits: Effective Immediately
The purpose of this bulletin is to alert all hospitals providing sexual assault evidence kit collection that there is a temporary moratorium on destruction of unreported sexual assault kits. An “unreported sexual assault kit” is an evidence kit collected from a patient who has consented to the collection of the kit, but who has not reported the crime to law enforcement.
Newly enacted state law has established a 14-month moratorium on destruction of any unreported sexual assault kits (from April 23, 2019 to June 30, 2020). Prior to this law, hospitals followed internal policies and procedures for retention, storage, and destruction of unreported sexual assault kits.
Due to WSHA’s advocacy, the Washington State Patrol has agreed to store unreported kits collected during the moratorium. Unreported kits collected before April 23 must be retained by the hospital (kits may be stored via an arrangement with local law enforcement).
WSHA will be sharing more information about retention of unreported kits in the coming weeks, including how to ship newly collected kits to the Washington State Patrol and how to log these kits into the statewide sexual assault kit tracking system.
The new requirements to retain unreported sexual assault kits applies to any hospital that collects sexual assault evidence kits.
These are preliminary recommendations. WSHA will provide more information in the coming weeks. Please contact WSHA with any questions. There are two key recommendations to comply with the law:
- Retain and store unreported sexual assault kits collected before April 23, 2019. Existing unreported kits must be retained and stored. If your hospital has any unreported sexual assault kits stored at the hospital or with local law enforcement, retain the kits in their current location. Do not destroy these kits.
- Retain “new” unreported sexual assault kits collected on or after April 23, 2019. Newly collected unreported kits must be retained and shipped to a Washington State Patrol crime lab. The Washington State Patrol will cover the cost of shipping kits to the state crime labs in Vancouver (for hospitals in Western Washington) and Spokane (for hospitals in Eastern Washington).
If your hospital has any unreported sexual assault kits collected on or after April 23, 2019, hold these kits. Please make sure the survivor is provided information about the statewide tracking system, including the bar code for the kit. Be sure to document and keep the bar code information in the patient’s record.
WSHA and the Washington State Patrol will share inform in the coming weeks about how to ship the unreported kits and how to handle other potential evidence.
HB 1166 was enacted by the legislature unanimously and signed by Governor Inslee. Part of this omnibus bill addresses unreported sexual assault kits.
Washington law is currently silent on unreported sexual assault kits – including storage location and length of retention. HB 1166 requires all unreported kits currently stored by hospitals or law enforcement to be retained until June 30, 2020. New collected kits are to be stored by the Washington State Patrol at the crime labs in Vancouver and Spokane.
During this moratorium, a statewide taskforce will work on developing policies and recommendations on storage, retention, and destruction of unreported sexual assault kits, as well as protocols for supporting survivors. WSHA is an active member of the statewide taskforce.
Retain all unreported sexual assault kits. WSHA will send out more information shortly about how to ship the unreported kits, how to handle other potential evidence, and updates to the statewide sexual assault forensic evidence tracking system.
Background and References
HB 1166 (Relating to supporting sexual assault survivors)