DNA Legislation

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*The Debbie Smith Act is Public Law*

I first met Debbie Smith in June 2001 at a hearing I held in the Government Reform Committee on DNA. When she was done telling her story, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. I decided to author legislation titled “The Debbie Smith Act” in the 107th Congress to get rapists off the streets. Mrs. Smith was unable to identify her masked attacker, but DNA is better than many eyewitness accounts. DNA doesn't forget, and DNA cannot be intimidated by defense counsel. Six years after Mrs. Smith was raped, DNA helped to identify her attacker.

In 2004 “The Debbie Smith Act” was signed into law as part of the “Justice for All Act” (P.L. 108-405).  “The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act” was signed into law in 2008 (P.L. 110-360).  P.L. 110-360 authorizes $151 million in each fiscal year from FY2009-FY2014 to process DNA evidence, and it reauthorizes programs for training and education and sexual assault forensic exam grants.

In 2007, Lifetime released "A Life Interrupted", a movie dramatization of Debbie Smith's story starring Lea Thompson. Find out more information here.

**For information regarding DNA evidence collected for a specific victim or offender, please contact the state/local crime lab, law enforcement agency, hospital, or prison responsible for collecting and testing that sample. For information regarding the laws in your state/locality, please contact the office of your state attorney general, local district attorney's office, magistrate, or Member of Congress.** 

Background on the Debbie Smith Act

 Debbie Smith was taken from her home and raped in the woods nearby. Her husband (Robert), a law enforcement officer in Williamsburg, Virginia, was asleep in their bedroom. Six and a half years later, Mrs. Smith's attacker was identified and convicted because of the processing of DNA evidence. Currently, there is no standardization for evidence collection kits, a tremendous backlog exists in processing evidence recovered from rape victims, and a need exists for trained personnel to be the "front-line" workers who collect DNA evidence from victims after they have been raped. The SANE program trains medical personnel, law enforcement, and first responders to specifically deal with sexual assault victims. When a victim is assaulted, the SANE program ensures her health and treat injuries, properly collects and maintains the evidence, and assists with the emotional needs of the victim. The most important component is the training of the medical personnel to conduct the exam appropriately. Countless stories are told regarding the long waits, going from hospital to hospital, and being further humiliated. The medical personnel and law enforcement personnel will be given the tools to do it appropriately.

Organizations that have endorsed the Debbie Smith Act

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), The National Center for Victims of Crime, Lifetime Television, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Emergency Nurses Association, Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, StopFamilyViolence.org, The Intercollegiate Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Ms. Magazine, The Oregonian, National Council of Women's Organizations, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American College of Nurse Practitioners, and the National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

Legislation

04/13/2011 - H.R. 1523, SAFER Act of 2011 [112th Congress]

08/10/10 - H.R. 6085, SAFER Act of 2010 [111th Congress]

11/19/09 - H.R.4114, Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 [111th Congress]

01/17/08 - H.R. 5057, The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act [110th Congress]

03/04/03 - H.R. 1046, Debbie Smith Act (lead Democrat) [108th Congress]

09/10/01 - H.R.2874, Debbie Smith Act [107th Congress]

Documents/Reports

 11/10/08 - Letter To Chairman Conyers and Chairman Scott Requesting Hearings about DNA Programs at the Department of Justice

10/28/08 - Letter to Attorney General Mukasey Expressing Concern about DNA Programs at the Department of Justice

03/09/04 - Letter To Sen. Majority Leader Frist Regarding Debbie Smith Act

Links

HEART: Hope Exists After Rape Trauma

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline

RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Safe Horizon

Stop Family Violence

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More on DNA Legislation

Apr 7, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON – With the House set to vote on the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) today stood with sexual assault survivors Debbie Smith and Natasha Alexenko to urge their colleagues to support the measure. The original Debbie Smith Act, which has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law, was first introduced by Maloney in 2001 and signed into law in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act. Since that time the legislation has provided millions of dollars to state and local law enforcement agencies for DNA analysis of untested rape kits.

Apr 2, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has joined forces with House Judiciary Committee member Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers to pass the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4323). The committee today held a markup on the bill to extend the federal DNA backlog processing grant program through 2019.  The original Debbie Smith Act was authored by Congresswoman Maloney and signed into law in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act.

Jan 11, 2014 Press Release

New York, NYStanding with a courageous rape survivor, elected officials and activists, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) today announced the next steps in her decade-long effort to eliminate the national rape-kit backlog, currently estimated at 400,000.  Listening to the harrowing tale of Natasha Alexenko, who was brutally raped in Manhattan and waited 15 years before her attacker was finally brought to justice, thanks to DNA evidence, Congresswoman Maloney reaffirmed her commitment to reducing the national backlog of rape kits by calling for the reauthorization of federal legislation that would provide funding for the processing of DNA evidence, that way medical examiner offices have the resources to process rape kits.

Feb 13, 2013 Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-12-NY), today called on GOP House leadership to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) approved by the Senate yesterday.

“It’s inexplicable to me that the House Republican Leadership blocked even a vote on VAWA renewal in the last Congress,” Maloney said. “In this new Congress they must schedule its consideration and allow members to vote their conscience on whether our sisters, daughters, nieces and mothers should have the extra protections afforded by VAWA since its original passage in 1994.”
 

Feb 12, 2013 Press Release

D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) urged House GOP leadership to bring to a vote the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization. With bipartisan support earlier today, the Senate passed S. 47, a strong VAWA Reauthorization measure, on a 78-22 vote.
 

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