Jennifer Boyter, IACP Legislative Analyst
n November 5, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill (H.R. 3214) that will provide more than $1 billion in funding and assistance for DNA evidence analysis and training. The legislation is the result of months of negotiations between congressional Republicans and Democrats. The measure, which is known as the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act, is endorsed by congressional leaders of both parties.
The bill combines President Bush's initiative to spend $1 billion to reduce the backlog of evidence awaiting DNA testing with proposals that will help state and local law enforcement expand the collection of DNA samples and evidence. Specifically, the bill would authorize $755 million over five years ($151 million per year) to eliminate the current backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other crime scene evidence awaiting DNA analysis in crime labs.
The measure authorizes $500 million for other new grant programs, including the following:
- $62.5 million ($12.5 million per year through 2009) to provide DNA evidence training and education for law enforcement, correctional personnel, and court officers
- $150 million ($30 million per year through 2009) for training and education assistance for medical professionals using DNA samples and evidence
- $75 million ($15 million per year through 2009) for research and development to improve forensic DNA technology
- $42.1 million for FBI DNA programs and activities
- $50 million over five years ($10 million per year) in grants to state, local, and tribal governments to eliminate forensic science backlogs
- $10 million ($2 million over five years) to promote the use of forensic DNA technology to identify missing persons and unidentified human remains
The bill also expands the DNA database system (CODIS) to allow states to include in the DNA index the DNA profiles of all felons convicted of federal crimes and all people required to submit DNA samples, including those authorized by state law.
The bill also contains portions of the Innocence Protection Act, which aims to ensure that defendants in state capital punishment cases have access to adequate legal counsel and that death row inmates could use sophisticated new DNA testing to assert their innocence. It would also give selected federal inmates access to DNA testing that could lead to reversal of their convictions if they assert under penalty of perjury that they are not guilty.
Hoping to ensure state inmates also have access to post-conviction DNA testing, the bill would authorize $25 million over the next five fiscal years to defray the costs to states of such genetic tests. As an incentive to states, some DNA grants authorized by the bill would be made contingent on the states preserving evidence and giving inmates access to postconviction testing.
The legislation would also authorize $500 million over five years for grants to states to improve the prosecution of capital cases and to build systems designed to ensure that defendants facing a potential death sentence have access to competent legal representation. The grants are structured so that if states accept a prosecution improvement grant, they also must take grants to develop a system to give defendants adequate counsel.
The measure now heads to the Senate, where companion legislation (S. 1700) faces significant opposition, despite the support of Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). With time running out on the first session, that could dim chances for action this year.
IACP Membership Approves 18 Resolutions
The membership of the IACP approved 18 resolutions on various law enforcement issues during the 110th Annual IACP Conference in Philadelphia. The texts of the resolutions are available on the IACP Legislative and Policy Web site, www.theiacp.org/Leg_policy. Below is a listing of the 18 resolutions.
- Bias-Free Policing
- Reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban
- Support for ATF's NIBIN Program
- Aggressive Traffic Enforcement for Law Enforcement Officer Survival
- Construction of Highways and Roadways That Consider the Safety of Law Enforcement Officers and Other Emergency Responders
- IACP/U.S. Department of Transportation Traffic Fatality Reduction Goal
- Increasing Data Collection on Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty in Motor Vehicle Crashes
- Law Enforcement Access to Driver's License Digital Images
- Manufacturers of Equipment and Accessories Cooperating in Safety Studies, Evaluations, and Information Dissemination
- Promotion of Safe Driving Practices
- National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan
- Extradition of Criminal Suspects
- Support for Continued Byrne Grant Funding
- Anti-Drug Legalization Update
- Clandestine Laboratory Cleanup Funding and Training
- Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement
- Internet Service Providers
- National Virtual Pointer System (NVPS)
Senate Committee Passes Technology Transfer Bill
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill (S. 1612) that would authorize $50 million annually from 2004-2114 to help local and state law enforcement agencies upgrade the equipment they use in training for terrorist events.
The "technology transfer" bill is designed to allow local law enforcement agencies to have the same type of counterterrorism technologies in use at the federal level. The program would be run by the Office of Domestic Preparedness in the Department of Homeland Security. ♦
Please cite as:
Jennifer Boyter, "House Passes DNA Evidence Bill," Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 70 (December 2003): 8.