The Maryland General Assembly on Friday passed legislation requiring testing of most rape kits and adding transparency to the process.
The House of Delegates gave unanimous final approval to a bill that aims to address a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits around the state.
The legislation requires forensic testing of evidence collected from a person who says they were a victim of rape, unless the victim does not consent to the testing.
It also allows rape kits to go untested if there is “clear evidence” disproving a sexual assault allegation, or if a suspect pleads guilty to sexual assault and authorities already have a profile of the subject on file.
To ensure rape kits are tested more speedily, the bill requires law enforcement agencies submit them to labs within 30 days, and it requires the labs update a state committee annually about how long it's taking to complete their work.
The Senate passed the same legislation Wednesday, so the bill goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his consideration. The governor’s office said Hogan will review the legislation when it reaches his desk.
The Baltimore Sun reported last year that 10 of the state’s largest police departments hold some 6,500 rape kits that have not been tested.
Supporters of the legislation said it was needed to ensure justice for rape victims is pursued.
Lawmakers already passed companion legislation to create a state grant program to help law enforcement agencies pay for increased rape kit testing.