Utah House questions the legality of selling DIY rape test kits

The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday,
Feb. 13, 2020.

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah representatives went to and fro during House floor debate Friday about the legality of selling do-it-yourself sexual assault test kits.

HB168, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, would limit the sale or even providing someone with an over-the-counter sexual assault test kit, imposing a fine up to $500. Romero said the kits are sold mostly online.

Questions from legislators included how a prohibition of their sale could impact the freedoms of buyers and sellers, the privacy of victims and law enforcement's chain of evidence.

"The top three issues is the DNA collection, the chain of custody and codice. So, if someone does this themselves, more than likely they're not going to be able to give this evidence to law enforcement, and it won't be able to be used to prosecute their alleged perpetrator," Romero said.

Some representatives felt differently about the DIY test kits.

Rep. Nelson Abbott, R-Orem, said there were already both criminal and civil laws that prevent people and business from false advertising and "deceptive marketing." His concern centered on the redundancy of the bill's efforts to prohibit the sale of the kits when there were other statutes that could be used to end their sale.

"If a person wants to purchase this for a novelty purpose or for non-law enforcement purpose, they ought to have that right," Abbott said.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, took offense at describing sexual assault kits as a novelty.

"Sexual assault is an incredibly serious offense. It's an incredibly serious problem not just in our state but in the nation," he said.

Rep. Matthew Gwynn, R-Farr West, said his primary issue with the sale of the kits is that victims of sexual assault may get a "false hope" for any potential prosecution.

"It doesn't make sense to convince a victim to take what they believe to be forensic evidence that would be admitted into the court to a police department to try and get it to an officer only to have the officer not accept the evidence. So I don't think it's fair to the victim nor do I think it's fair as a law enforcement community who's supposed to be protecting them," Gwynn said.

Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, said "just the name of the kit itself, in my opinion, is deceptive. And (it) would lead somebody who is already feeling emotionally and physically traumatized, and psychologically traumatized, to think that maybe they could do this themselves; and put off a little bit going to the law enforcement or something like that."

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, asked if these test kits were for personal use only isn't a question of "privacy."

"Is it possible that certain victims may not want them to be used as evidence, they may want to conduct their own private test? With no intention of going to the authorities?" Nelson asked Romero.

Romero admitted that might be true, but said "I don't understand why someone would want to do an exam like this, and then not take it to law enforcement (and) are not taught to go to receive services."

The bill passed the House 49-21 on Friday and will go to the Senate for consideration.

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Hannah Petersen

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