U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Ted Poe (TX-02) today introduced the Debbie Smith Crime Victims Protection Act, legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act and dedicate much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct forensic analyses of crime scenes, including untested rape kits. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) cosponsored the bill.
“This landmark legislation has provided more than a decade of support for survivors, serving as a critical tool in the fight to end backlogs of untested kits in cities across America,” said Sen. Cornyn. “Reauthorizing these programs will ensure labs can continue to complete DNA analysis on evidence and exonerate those who are wrongly accused. It’s survivors like Debbie Smith who inspire us to keep working to ensure our criminal justice system never forgets that there is a victim at the heart of these crimes.”
“Roughly every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. The reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act will continue the efforts to protect victims of rape and sexual assault, as well as prosecute criminals by actively pursuing the perpetrators through DNA from rape kits. Often victims of sexual assault are forced to live in fear of their attacker, endlessly waiting on the results of their rape kit. The kits are caught in a lengthy backlog, leaving the victim without justice. Not knowing who their attacker was is an additional punishment to the victim, created by bureaucratic excuses. DNA evidence provided by rape kits helps identify the culprits and frees the wrongfully accused. Victims of violent crime should not live in fear and be denied justice while their attackers go about their everyday lives due to a bureaucratic backlog. It’s time to put these dangerous criminals behind bars and give survivors of sexual assault the justice they deserve,” said Rep. Poe.
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 2005 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.