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Feinstein, Cornyn Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Debbie Smith Act, Help Fight Rape Kit Backlogs

Washington - Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today introduced the Debbie Smith Act of 2019, legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act and give much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are original cosponsors.

“The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant program has been vital to reducing the backlog of untested DNA evidence from rape kits. Since its creation in 2004, it’s already been responsible for processing more than 860,000 cases and uploading 376,000 DNA profiles into the FBI’s DNA database. Profiles from this grant program now compose 43 percent of all forensic profiles in the FBI database,” said Feinstein. “This program is incredibly important for rape survivors seeking justice, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it enacted.”

“More than a decade ago, this legislation gave law enforcement in cities across America the tools to reduce the backlogs of untested kits and help bring survivors the answers they need,” said Cornyn. “The DNA analysis that relies on the reauthorization of these programs is critical in the search for justice for victims and exoneration for those wrongly accused. Debbie Smith stands as a reminder that behind these crimes, there are families looking for closure and peace.” 

The Debbie Smith Crime Victims Protection Act reauthorizes the Debbie Smith Act to continue the testing of DNA evidence, including rape kits, from unsolved crimes nationwide, DNA training and education for law enforcement, correctional personnel, and court officers, and the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program, which supports forensic nurse training throughout the country.

Background on the Debbie Smith Act:

The Debbie Smith Act was originally 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 641,000 DNA cases have been processed. In addition to crime scene evidence, Debbie Smith funds are also utilized 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.