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10News investigation inspires rape kit testing law

On Thursday, Governor Rick Scott ceremoniously signed off on a bill that will bring big changes to how Florida handles testing for rape kits. The new law was inspired directly by a 10News Investigation.

A new law in Florida will require all rape kits to be tested within 120 days.

Tampa, FL -- Governor Rick Scott signed new law in Tampa Thursday aimed at clearing Florida's backlog of nearly 13,000 untested rape kits.

In July 2015, a 10News WTSP investigation revealed evidence collected from thousands of sexual assault victims had gone unprocessed for months, sometimes years.

Thousands of rape kits in Tampa Bay go untested

Florida's new rape kit law gives police agencies 30 days to submit DNA evidence collected from rape victims and gives the state's crime labs four months to process it.

“This expedited process is critical to getting innocent victims the answers they rightfully deserve and making sure the perpetrators are immediately brought to justice,” said Gov. Scott.

The information will then be added to and compared against a national database.

“And these can also solve homicides, serial killers, pedophiles,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Rape victim Julie Weil, on-hand for the ceremonial signing, endured the process of providing DNA evidence. Weil later learned that the man who raped her had previously attacked at least three other women.

“Every one of these kits, had they been tested and entered into a database,” said Weil, “[They] could've stopped the man who had a reign of terror that lasted for decades.”

Governor Scott said the new law had personal meaning for him and took the time to relay a story about one of his own daughters who called him from college and told him she had been slipped a date rape drug at a bar.

“Nothing bad happened to her other than that she had a drug put in a drink that she was drinking, and ended up in the hospital,” said Scott, “But that was a scary time. And I cannot imagine what happens to families when these things happen across the state.”

It underscores the importance, Scott said, of investigations that bring such issues to light.

“When the media finds an issue and they make sure that everybody understands the issue, it's much easier to get legislation passed,” said Gov. Scott.

The 10News investigation also found law enforcement agencies often citing a lack of money as an excuse.

In response, the state legislature also set aside nearly $11 million in the 2016 – 2017 budget to address the backlog. The state will also spend more money to hire more technicians and retain those already working for the FDLE to make such a backlog does not occur again.

Eventually, Attorney General Bondi says the state also plans to build an entire new facility so the FDLE can process more rape kits and other DNA evidence much faster.

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