In 2018, the NC General Assembly passed legislation (S.L. 2018-70) requiring the creation of the a statewide tracking system to track the testing of Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECKs) from collection to completion of forensic testing. The tracking system is now available for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
For kits collected on or after Oct. 1, 2018, the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Tracking and Information Management System (STIMS), can be accessed to know where the kit is, in whose custody, whether the kit has reached the lab, and whether or not it has been tested—useful information for all participants in the investigation and court proceedings.
The system is easy to use: just visit the STIMS online portal, enter the serial number of the kit you wish to check in the system, and the tracking information will be returned in moments. The serial number of the kit is found on the box itself. The number may contain several leading zeroes—these may be included or omitted. Defense counsel will need to request the serial number of the kit from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office. Attorneys should be aware that the online system does not report the results of the testing, only the tracking information. Results of laboratory analysis are available through the discovery process.
The NC Attorney General’s Office has put together a series of instructional videos on the STIMS systems for various users:
Overview: A general overview of STIMS, why it was created, as well as applicable law and legislative history.
Survivor User: Covers how to enter the serial numbers and how to read the results page.
These videos may be useful to know how the data is entered and how the kits are tracked through the chain of custody:
Law Enforcement User Training Video
Crime Laboratory User Training Video
Do you know how to access the lab procedures for the NC State Crime Laboratory? It is important for attorneys to review these procedures so that they understand how the laboratory evidence in their case was analyzed.
The method for accessing lab procedures changed in 2018. Previously, there were links to the current lab procedures on the State Crime Lab’s ISO Procedures webpage. Now, the Lab has placed the documents on a SharePoint site to provide access to both current and historical/archived procedures.
To access the procedures, an attorney should follow these steps (which are also described on the Lab’s website):
- Email the Lab (click and an email will open in a new window).
- The Lab will reply to your email, sending you a link to access to the policies and procedures via the SharePoint site.
- Access to the SharePoint site requires an active Microsoft account. If you do not have one, you may create one for free during the login process.
- If you have previously been granted access, you may use this link to access the site: Crime Laboratory Policies and Procedures.
In my experience, the Lab responds quickly to these requests during business hours, but depending on one’s familiarity with using a SharePoint site, it may take a little longer to learn to navigate this system. Also, because a request and a reply is needed, attorneys should request this access now, before they have a pressing need for immediate access.
As with any change, there is a learning curve, but this change is an improvement for the defense bar because it allows access to archived procedures. The Lab regularly updates its procedures, so it is important to understand both the procedure in effect at the time the evidence was tested, and the current procedure, if there has been a change.