Bill by Senators Cornyn and Feinstein to fight rape kit backlog passes Senate

WASHINGTON- Last Thursday, the Senate passed a bill introduced by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Debbie Smith Act of 2019, which would 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.

The bill would give resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits.

“The Debbie Smith Act has long been an important tool in the fight to end the backlogs of untested kits in cities across America,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I’m grateful to my Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of this legislation to law enforcement seeking justice, survivors looking for answers, and families searching for closure.” “The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant program has dramatically reduced the backlog of untested DNA rape kits, providing justice for rape survivors and getting dangerous predators off the streets. Since 2004, more than 860,000 rape kits have been tested and 360,000 DNA profiles uploaded to the FBI’s database thanks to this program. I’m glad the Senate remains committed to reducing the untested rape kit backlog and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to get it reauthorized,” said Sen. Feinstein.

This legislation would reauthorize 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. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) are original cosponsors.

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.