Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) joined a group of 12 additional Senators in introducing legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act, which would provide state and local law enforcement agencies with resources to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits.
“Making sure resources are in place to support prompt and thorough forensic investigations that bring perpetrators of crime to justice is a central part of obtaining justice for victims,” said Crapo. “Reauthorizing this program will help stop offenders from being able to act again and ensure a fair criminal justice system.”
The grant program is named for Debbie Smith, of Virginia, who did not see justice following her rape until years after DNA evidence was collected. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service explained that rape kits, “may remain untested for reasons such as limited resources of laboratories and law enforcement and police discretion.”
The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in 2004 to provide local and state crime laboratories resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples, and increase the capacity to process DNA in order to guard against future backlogs. Since it became law, more than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed. In addition to crime scene evidence, Debbie Smith funds are also used to process offender DNA samples to ensure evidence from unsolved crimes can be matched against a database of known offenders, similar to the criminal fingerprint databases.
The legislation, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), is also co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
This legislation is endorsed by Debbie Smith, the Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs of America, National District Attorneys Association, Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and Joyful Heart Foundation.