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Lawsuit filed against Washington ban on commercial sexual assault evidence kits

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(The Center Square) – A New York-based company that produces sexual assault evidence kits has filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington after the Legislature enacted a ban on its product’s sale.

Last year, the state Legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 1564 sponsored by Rep. Gin Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, which prohibits the sale of over-the-counter sexual assault kits. The arguments made by proponents is that these kits were not sufficient substitutes for testing done by law enforcement.

Prior to the ban, the State Attorney General’s Office opposed their sale with a cease-and-desist letter, which Leda Health has also received in other states including Pennsylvania, where it has also filed a lawsuit. The Washington AGO argued that the company violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

However, in a news release statement, Leda Health argued that “this Washington statute disregards the admissibility of self-collected evidence, which has been historically recognized in the court of Washington and other jurisdictions. Through legal action, Leda aims to overturn this unconstitutional ban that is restricting resources from survivors in Washington.”

In a statement, Leda Health CEO Madison Campbell said that “our system too often forces victims to endure an intrusive physical examination in an unfamiliar place that can retraumatize them. As a survivor of sexual assault, I personally did not want to undergo such an experience. By providing alternative services, such as at-home forensic collection, emergency contraception, STI testing, and toxicology testing, Leda seeks to meet survivors where they are.”

The company is legally represented by Litson PLLC. Attorney Alex Little in a statement cited several prior cases, including State of Washington v. Alvarez and State of Washington v. Earl, that he argues allow for self-collected evidence in criminal trials.

Also named in the lawsuit is State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who last year announced that the Sexual Assault Kit initiative finally cleared 10,000 kits to be sent for testing; at the time, they had helped solve 21 criminal cases.

Campbell wrote that “the First Amendment protects the Attorney General’s right to be a hypocrite, to pretend to advocate on behalf of sexual assault victims all while protecting the status quo and special interest groups, but it also prevents them from politicizing their offices to retaliate against me and my company for having a contrasting view.”

In an email to The Center Square, AGO Communications Manager Brionna Aho wrote that “we will vigorously defend this important state law. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, and unanimously in the House. Sexual assault survivors should know that care and support are available to them for free by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.”

She also cited numerous testimonies provided while the bill was moving through the legislature, including Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Policy Director James McMahan, who said “there is no good reason to make a survivor of sexual assault pay to unknowingly prevent justice in their case. The exam should be free, the kit should be free, it should be free for a qualified person who can the come and testify on their behalf in a criminal case should the survivor choose to do that. The survivor should have all of those choices, absolutely free.”

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