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Officials push to clear backlogged rape kits in Tennessee

According to reports, as of September 2014, Tennessee had over 9,000 untested rape kits on the books. The kits were spread out over many areas, with hundreds of untested kits in metro areas. Reports are that law enforcement and other agencies are pushing to get all the kits tested and that they believe the tests might lead to opening old cases.

Tennessee is not the only state with a backlog of untested rape kits, according to a report from USA Today. The media outlet conducted a review of 800 police departments across the country and found that 70,000 or more kits related to reports of sexual assault had not been tested. The number reported only covers 800 of what is around 18,000 agencies across the country.

In some areas of Tennessee, untested rape kits date back as far as 2007. Reports also indicate that some agencies destroyed or threw out kits without properly testing them. Now that agencies are pushing to test remaining kits, evidence could link individuals to cases that are years old.

While properly processing evidence is a positive endeavor, older evidence brought to light today can be taken out of context. It can be difficult for law enforcement or criminal defense professionals to go back and interview witnesses and others involved in activities that took place over five years ago, making it difficult to defend against charges that could be brought up due to the current processing of cases.

For anyone facing sexual assault charges -- whether related to current or old actions -- understanding legal rights and how to review and frame evidence for a strong defense is important. In some cases, professionals may be able to bring criminal defense strategies to combat information obtained from old evidence.

Source: The Tennessean, "Tennessee pushes to clear rape kit backlog," Jordan Buie, July 16, 2015

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