Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $1,000,000)
The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit serves Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. In 2014, an inventory revealed more than 1,700 untested sexual assault kits throughout the Circuit. Through BJA and DANY funding, all of these unsubmitted kits were tested and investigation and prosecution began.
In 2018, the SAO received an award to initiate a lawfully owed DNA project, creating the potential for thousands of new CODIS database entries. The final census of qualifying offenders identified 1,961 lawfully owed DNA samples. As of June 2021, 211 of these DNA samples have been collected. Three CODIS hits resulted from the collection of these samples, which identified one serial offender. Thus, 89.2% of samples identified on the census still require collection. Uncollected samples are primarily due to detectives being unable to locate offenders and resource constraints. Our initial arrestee DNA collection assessment indicates on average, 247 samples from qualifying offenders are missed at booking per year due to manual staff errors, swabbing issues and the need for further training resources.
The SAO developed and implemented Lawfully Owed DNA Policies and Procedures and worked with its partner agency the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO), which implemented internal policies to ensure collections adhere within statutory law. Sixty percent of qualifying offenders that currently refuse to provide DNA are registered sex offenders, which impacts the SAKI Unit’s ability to resolve SAK cases. We are actively researching the use of search warrants to effectuate collections in similar situations. Our research indicates that there is no precedence for the use of search warrants in this manner.
The proposed project will progress collection and tracking efforts with an additional dedicated detective, continue investigation and prosecution of cases that result in CODIS hits from such efforts, address gaps in current protocols, develop a victim-centered, trauma informed approach and notification policy for lawfully owed DNA cases, pursue legal actions to compel the collection of lawfully owed DNA that align with statutory law, conduct personnel training, and expand existing policies and procedures to smaller agencies within the jurisdiction.
The benefits of these efforts will help prevent further criminal activity by high-risk individuals and serve survivors and the community. Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to continuing a partnership that truly makes an impact in the lives of survivors and enhances public safety in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.