This Feb. 8, 2017, photo, sexual assault evidence collection kit are shown during committee meeting at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City.
Image: AP

An investigation by Buzzfeed News has found that date rape drug testing is notoriously unreliable and inconclusive, yet continue to be presented in courtrooms and by investigators as evidence. The end result, former prosecutors say, is that rapists are walking away free.

Buzzfeed reports on the broken, notoriously flawed system in place for the forensic toxicology of date rape drugs:

America’s system for date rape drug testing is riddled with flaws, according to a review of thousands of pages of lab manuals from every state across the country, as well as dozens of interviews with nurse examiners, toxicologists, law enforcement officials, advocates and lawyers. The testing equipment in some labs isn’t sensitive enough to detect substances at low concentrations, despite the fact that drugs break down quickly in the body, and it may be hours or even days before the victim has recovered sufficiently to report an assault. Other labs test only blood, even though evidence of drugs last much longer in urine, or don’t have the resources to test sexual assault cases at all.

And some labs rely entirely on a type of drug screen so notoriously fallible that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recommends that it never be used in drug-facilitated sexual assault cases — noting that “false negative results” caused by its “insufficiently sensitive methods” risk bringing investigations to a premature end.

Furthermore, because there are no national standards for what range of drugs labs should test for, or what constitutes a positive result, “the outcomes wildly unreliable and hard to interpret.” Prosecutors who worked on sex crimes in more than six states said they “rarely had positive results to support their cases.”

But because the results are regarded as scientific, conclusive evidence, the results can impede the victim’s ability to seek justice. In some cases, investigators won’t even take on a case without a positive result. “The investigators want to sit back and wait for the toxicology results to come in before they truly start their investigation, and you have to try to reverse that,” Marc LeBeau, who runs the FBI’s toxicology lab, told Buzzfeed.

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Defense attorneys can also use drug test results to “shatter victims’ credibility, allowing defense attorneys to cast doubt on everything they say, and even leading prosecutors to abandon cases altogether,” Buzzfeed reports. Former prosecutor Jane Manning concluded that because of unreliable drug rape tests, “rapists are getting away with rape in cases where they could be arrested and convicted.”

The findings expose yet another way in which America’s criminal justice system fails victims of sexual assault. Read the full report at Buzzfeed News.