What is a “Rape Kit” – and how is it used?

Criminal Sexual Conduct Rape Kit SANE

When an accusation of Criminal Sexual Conduct is made in Michigan, the evidence often involves a rape kit, formally known as a “SANE kit.”

Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) cases in Michigan often involve a form of evidence commonly called a “rape kit.”  But what is a rape kit?  A rape kit, properly called a “sexual assault evidence collection kit,” is a kit used for obtaining biological evidence from the body of an alleged victim of a Criminal Sexual Conduct crime for testing and use in a criminal prosecution.  If you are accused of CSC in Michigan, you should understand what a rape kit is, it’s purpose, what type of evidence is gathered, and how all of this may affect your case.  If you are facing CSC charges in Michigan, this article is for you.    

In 1978, Michigan passed it’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Law, MCL 333.21527, stating that whenever a person alleges to a physician or other member of the attending or admitting staff of a hospital that they have been the victim of a sexual assault within the past 120 hours, the hospital personnel must inform them that a sexual assault medical forensic examination is available to them, including the administration of a sexual assault evidence kit to collect biological (DNA evidence).  If the alleged victim consents, the examination is performed right then and there by someone called a “SANE nurse” who is specially trained to administer the exam according to law.  “SANE” stands for “sexual assault nurse examiner.”  For this reason, this medical forensic exam provided for by law is often referred to as a “SANE exam.”

By law, a SANE exam must be offered when a person alleges that they have been the victim of the following Michigan sex crimes:

RELATED: Click here to visit our Criminal Sexual Conduct Main Page.

Here is how a person typically ends up at a hospital for a SANE examination: First, the person claims to either a police officer or a sexual assault victim advocate that they have been the victim of a Michigan CSC crime.  The police officer or victim advocate will immediately direct the alleged victim to a nearby hospital that will perform a SANE examination according to law.  They will be told not to bathe or change their clothing or undergarments.  Sometimes, a victim advocate will accompany the alleged victim during the exam.  The SANE nurse then takes the alleged victim into the room where the examination will be performed.

Next, the SANE nurse explains that the exam is completely voluntary, and that without the alleged victim’s consent, their identity may not be revealed, and the evidence obtained as well as their identity may not be used in a Criminal Sexual Conduct prosecution.  Likewise, they are also told that just because they agree to receive the SANE exam, that does not mean they are required to participate with law enforcement in a CSC prosecution.  All of this information is explained to them in writing, and the alleged victim signs if in-fact they do consent to the use of the information and evidence in a CSC case.  As long as the exam meets the requirements of law (tests all of the things required), then neither the alleged victim nor their insurance will be required to pay the costs of the exam.

RELATED: Should I submit to a Polygraph in my CSC case?

The SANE exam begins.  The alleged victim is asked to remove their clothing and is given a hospital gown to wear.  If they are still wearing the same clothing or undergarments that were worn during or immediately after the alleged sexual assault, those clothing items will be collected as evidence (and sometimes even if not the same clothes).  From that point, there are two basic aspects of the SANE exam: the verbal part (questioning) and the actual physical examination.

As the verbal questioning begins, the SANE nurse asks basic background / health questions followed by questions about the alleged Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) incident (including whether they used any drugs or alcohol, a checklist detailing the various sexual acts described by the alleged victim, such as whether there was kissing, fondling, penetration, etc.).  There are also a series of questions about things the alleged victim has done since, such as using the bathroom, bathing, etc.  The answers to these questions give the SANE nurse indications of where DNA evidence may be located on the alleged victim’s body.

As the SANE nurse asks these questions, she fills out a standardized form provided by the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division.  Click the link below to view this exact SANE form, which will be provided to your Michigan CSC Lawyer during the discovery process if you are charged with a sex crime in Michigan:

SANE Form (Form FSD-097)

The physical portion of the SANE exam begins with the SANE nurse taking vitals, observing the alleged victim’s entire body, and noting any obvious physical injuries on the SANE form.  Any injuries are noted on the picture diagrams on pages 3 and 4 of the SANE form.  The next thing is the “detailed anogenital examination” to look for any injuries on the genitals or anus.  Any findings are noted on the checklists and picture diagrams on pages 5 and 6 of the form (for females) or page 7 (for males).  Any visible injuries or other signs are photographed with the alleged victim’s consent.  

Following these observations, the sane nurse administers the “sexual assault evidence collection kit,” mentioned above.  This kit is a small white box containing standardized items that is provided to these hospitals by the Michigan State Police, which is “a standardized set of equipment and written procedures.”  In it, it contains written instructions, vials for urine and blood, Q-tip type swabs for DNA samples and envelopes to place them in, a comb for pubic hair samples, and other items.  Using these items, the SANE nurse takes swabs of the alleged victims mouth, breasts, genital area, anus, and other areas as necessary depending on what their particular CSC accusation is.

At the conclusion of the SANE exam, the envelopes containing swabs from the “rape kit” (or sexual assault evidence collection kit”) are sealed and delivered to the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division, Biology Unit Laboratory in Northville, Michigan for DNA testing.  The blood and urine samples are delivered to the State Police Toxicology Unit in Lansing, Michigan.  The toxicology results may show that the accuser was on drugs, alcohol, or something else at the time of the alleged Criminal Sexual Conduct.  This evidence can be a powerful factor in your CSC defense strategy, and your CSC Defense Lawyer must request this information during the process of discovery.

The State Police Laboratories in Northville and Lansing perform their tests and create a Laboratory Report with their conclusions.  These Reports will disclose whether or not the State Police forensic scientist testing the samples believes that there is a DNA match to you, and from which samples.  In order to perform this comparison, law enforcement must obtain your DNA sample by way of your consent, a Warrant, or through the Combined DNA index system (if you have previously been arrested or convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors).  If you are convicted of a Michigan CSC crime, the evidence in the kit will be retained until the period of incarceration is complete.

WARNING: DO NOT consent to give a DNA sample to the police!  Instead, contact a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Lawyer immediately!

RELATED: Click here for DNA evidence basics.
RELATED: Click here for our article on Michigan’s new DNA testing law for those accused of crimes.
Brian J. Prain has been named one of the Top 100 Criminal Trial Lawyers in Michigan and Top 40 Trial Lawyers Under 40 in Michigan by The National Trial Lawyers, Top 40 Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyers Under 40 by NACDA, and one of the Premier 100 by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys.  Both Brian himself and PrainLaw, PLLC have been honored by the AIOCLA with their Top 10 Award for Client Satisfaction.  Brian can be found in both Super Lawyers Magazine and HOUR DETROIT Magazine.  
If you or someone you care about is facing a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charge, contact The Law Office of Brian J. Prain, PLLC anytime at (248) 763-0641 or (844) CRIM-HELP.  You can also send us a message using our Contact Form: