Untested Rape Kits Could Lead to Wrongful Convictions
Thousands of untested rape kits sit in local police department storage rooms across the nation. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, more than 10,900 of those kits are sitting in Florida law enforcement agency evidence rooms. As reported by Florida Today, about a third of those kits “should have been submitted” for testing, while the remainder were intentionally stored away due to the state’s unwillingness to file charges, the victim’s unwillingness to press charges or a guilty plea from a suspected offender. While the effect of this backlog on the alleged victims is often discussed and debated, there is another side to this issue that leaves innocent men sitting in jail for rapes that they did not commit.
Just as a rape kit is used to convict a guilty person, it can also be used to exonerate an innocent one. Wrongful convictions happen far too often, especially in situations where DNA testing is not completed prior to trial. The most common causes include:
- Misidentification of the offender by an eyewitness. According to the Innocence Project, this occurs in about 72% of all wrongful convictions.
- Improper forensic evidence that is not properly validated through scientific methodology. The Innocence Project estimates that accounts for about 47% of all wrongful convictions.
- False confessions account or about 25% of these cases.
- False or incorrect information from informants account for about 15% of these cases.
A Living Example
One Fort Lauderdale resident learned the value of a tested rape kit when he was exonerated for a sexual assault conviction that landed him in jail for eight years. According to reports, the individual was arrested and charged with sexual battery. Fearing a life sentence, he pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced to eight years. He reportedly explained later that his admission and plea resulted from alleged pressure by the prosecutor and his own court-appointed lawyer.
Though a rape kit was collected, it was never tested prior to conviction and sat in storage from 1988 until 2007. The individual made a jailhouse request to have the evidence tested. As a result, the kit was sent to the Broward County Crime Lab where DNA proved his innocence in the case.
Protecting Yourself before a Conviction
An untested rape kit could lead to your wrongful conviction without a knowledgeable lawyer on your side. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. What is to gain from confessing and pleading guilty to a crime that you did not commit? Without scientifically tested evidence, sexual battery cases often come down to one person’s word against another. As experienced lawyer can use this circumstance to successfully argue that the sexual encounter was consensual. Your lawyer may even successfully assert that the accused is making false allegations and no sexual encounter occurred.
If you are facing sexual battery charges, contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC to discuss your case. Call today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation in Miami.