Officials in Florida have finally made headway with a huge backlog of the state's rape kits, and out of the thousands that have been tested over the past four years or so, a significant number of "hits" have emerged from a DNA database. The Tallahassee Democrat and Orlando Sentinel report that of the 8,023 sexual assault kits that were processed since 2015, 1,814—or 22.6%—got a ping in the Combined DNA Index System, which law enforcement officials use in investigations. These results are now potential leads for thousands of unsolved rape cases, some of which stretch back more than 10 years. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's initiative to get all of these kits tested was part of an effort to do so nationwide, with a 2016 state assessment that said 10,000 kits remained untested prompting a bigger push.
Now, all new rape kits that come in are required to be tested within 120 days. Not that a hit in the CODIS system means an arrest is imminent. The Democrat points out that the hit may match up to the person already convicted in the case; in other situations, the suspect must still be interviewed and have a new DNA sample retrieved for confirmation, and even then it's necessary to ensure the DNA didn't end up in the rape kit for an innocent reason (e.g., the suspect had consensual sex with the victim). So what's the next step in possibly solving this slew of cold cases? "[The kits] get returned to the agencies that submitted them," an FDLE spokeswoman says. "Local law enforcement will have to take the initiative to work on these." (An innocent man was convicted of rape due to a rape kit mix-up.)