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NC passes law to ensure rape kits are free for victims

Last updated on July 11, 2022

It has been decades since North Carolina first outlawed billing victims of sexual assault for rape kits. Originally, a fund was established for hospitals to bill instead to cover evidence collection in sexual assault cases, but that fund capped allowable payments to $800, at times leaving victims with bills amounting to thousands of dollars. House Bill 674 was passed by the NC legislature and signed by NC Governor Roy Cooper last week, raising that cap to ensure kits are fully covered under the new law.

“Victims of sexual assault deserve access to a rape kit without being further victimized by being charged for it. This new law will also strengthen the state’s DNA database used to catch criminals by including domestic violence and assault crimes,” Cooper said.

Under the act, facilities cannot bill victims for a forensic medical examination. Changes also include increases in the amount the program can spend on medical examinations and expanding the definition of “sexual assault” with regards to the program.

The bill also requires DNA samples be taken from anyone convicted of sexual assault and domestic violence offenses regardless of it if it a felony or a misdemeanor. Those found not guilty by reason of insanity must submit their DNA sample as well.

According to the new law, regardless of if someone is found guilty but spends no time behind bars (including those who are committed to a mental health facility), they must provide a DNA sample as a condition of release.

“HB 674 will require submission of DNA testing under certain circumstances where it is currently not required, it also clarifies billing rules for these situations,” said NC House of Representative for District 120 Karl Gillesipe.  “I was glad to support this legislation as it provides additional safeguards for the citizens of North Carolina.”

NC Attorney General Stein released a statement about the new law and improvements to North Carolina’s DNA collection laws since 2020.

“I’m grateful to the legislature for passing HB 674 and to Gov. Cooper for signing it into law,” said Stein. “We know that many people who commit sexual assault have previously committed other violent crimes against women. This bill improves our current DNA collection laws by adding the DNA of thousands of people convicted of certain crimes to our database, including assault on a female and assault on a child. “

A separate measure Cooper signed strengthens protections for domestic abuse victims by allowing judges to renew a domestic violence protective order to fill the gap in time between an order’s expiration and a forthcoming court hearing.

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