Collection of Forensic Evidence in Colorado Sexual Assault Cases (2011-2013)

How should forensic evidence be collected and analyzed in sexual assault cases, potentally for later use in a courtroom? What practices could improve this process? In Colorado, changes in collection protocols are up for discussion.


  1. The Colorado Evidence Collection Protocol is an instruction manual used by those in healthcare to provide appropriate care to victims of sexual assault.
    The edition published in December of 2000, states that "the primary purposes of this protocol" are to:

    1. Minimize physical and psychological trauma to the victim who has experienced sexual assault.

    2. Maximize the probability of prosecution through appropriate examination, collection, and preservation of physical evidence.

  2. To better fulfill these goals, and continuously improve the effectiveness of practices in the collection of forensic evidence in cases of sexual assault, the mandated protocols state that they remain open to necessary revision.
    Recent public awareness on the subject fueled interest in exactly this kind of revision.
  3. Building pressure for new state laws on DNA evidence protocols was originally prompted by this local 7NEWS investigation by Keli Rabon in 2012.
  4. Few rape kits tested in Colorado
  5. From 2008-2012, nearly 65% of the rape kits performed in Colorado were never submitted by law enforcement to be analyzed and compared to the CODAS DNA database.
    A Denver Police Department officer claimed (incorrectly) that there were "not enough resources" to process every rape kit. On the contrary, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) offers analysis of all rape kits free of charge.
    True fulfillment of the goals in the Colorado Evidence Collection Protocol is impossible if the majority of rape kits are performed correctly, but are never submitted for analysis.
  6. Effective in March 2013, the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet was passed, helping state and local governments conduct backlogged audits of rape kits stacked up in storage, and provide resources for them to be processed.
  7. KCNC: Bennet's Bill Will Help Reduce Rape Kit Backlog, Bring Justice to Sexual Assault Victims
  8. “After living though the horrendous trauma of a sexual assault and then the invasive rape kit exam, victims should not have to wait for justice to be served while DNA evidence sits untested,” says Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.
  9. Later in the year, the General Assembly of the State of Colorado proposed the enactment of stricter protocols for rape kit evidence collection and processing.
  10. Effective in Colorado July 1st, 2013, House Bill 13-1020 helped to eliminate testing backlog that has been building up for years by requiring that all requests for rape test kits be fulfilled and examined within 90 days of testing. The issue was sponsored by Colorado State Rep. Frank McNulty, inspired by Keli Rabon's investigative report in 2012.
  11. The new protocol includes new, stricter time requirements for when forensic evidence must be submitted by law enforcement to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and also provides time frames for when that evidence must be analyzed and compared to DNA databases.
  12. The bill also requires the consent of the victim prior to the release of forensic evidence following disclosure of the purpose for the release and allows the victim to withdraw consent.
  13. To further resolve the backlog of unanalyzed forensic evidence, the new bill requires:

    -law enforcement agencies to submit an inventory of all unanalyzed forensic evidence in active investigations

    -the Colorado bureau of investigation to submit a plan to analyze all of the forensic evidence inventories by law enforcement agencies

  14. It's amazing the impact that a single news television segment can make on a community. Other states have become aware of the DNA evidence backlog problem, and are looking into revising their own protocols. Even discussion of the  potential for a national protocol for the collection and processing of evidence in sexual assault cases has appeared.