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Montana DOJ proposes sexual assault kit tracking improvements

Montana DOJ proposes sexual assault kit tracking improvements

Sexual-assault evidence kits stored in the Department of Criminal Investigations

Sexual-assault evidence kits are stored in the Department of Criminal Investigations building in Helena in this file photo.

The Montana Department of Justice is proposing several rule changes to better track sexual assault kits.

The open public comment period on the changes closes July 23 at 5 p.m. The changes largely issue timeframes in which healthcare facilities, law enforcement and crime laboratories are required to update a sexual assault kit's status in the state's tracking system, which went live in 2019. Through the system, survivors would be able to track their kit status with a 6-digit code as it moves through the criminal justice process. 

Kayla Bragg, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative coordinator for the Montana Department of Justice, said Friday the rule changes further clarify the process that began in 2019.

"It's all coming together to make a uniform system that works well in the criminal justice process and providing that accountability on tracking kits from the medical facility to the law enforcement agency and through the entire system."

One proposed rule would give the Department of Justice the ability to provide a public notice if one of the parties required to update the kit's status failed to do so after 30 days. Bragg said the notice of violation would essentially be a notification that the healthcare facility, law enforcement agency or crime lab had failed to update the kit status, but that the Legislature could add more teeth to the Department of Justice's enforcement if necessary.

The 2019 state Legislature put to work a $2 million federal grant for the Department of Justice create, operate and maintain a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system in the 2019 session. 

Any written public comment can be submitted to Bragg at kayla.bragg@mt.gov or P.O. Box 201417.

More information about the state's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative can be found online.

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