Like Countable?

Install the App
TRY NOW

house Bill H.R. 777

Should Federal Funding for DNA Evidence Testing be Reauthorized?

Argument in favor

DNA evidence can help in identifying criminals, successfully prosecuting crimes, and making communities safer. Reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act will help law enforcement investigate crimes and close cold cases, including rapes, to give victims and families justice.

Austin's Opinion
···
10/23/2019
DNA evidence has both helped to catch thousands of criminals and clear thousands of wrongly accused
Like (54)
Follow
Share
burrkitty's Opinion
···
10/23/2019
DNA is a critical piece of evidence to victims of rapists finding justice. So many criminals go free because we lack the evidence of their wrongdoing. We must process this evidence and identify the criminals.
Like (42)
Follow
Share
Joanne 's Opinion
···
10/23/2019
DNA evidence has both helped to convict and clear people. It is disheartening that so many rape cases weren't tested in many areas of the country, particularly Wayne County Michigan, allowing rapists to go undetected for years. YES, reauthorize.
Like (29)
Follow
Share

Argument opposed

DNA evidence can be wrong, leading to wrongful convictions of innocent people. The expansion of DNA testing raises the risk that faulty DNA results can lead to miscarriages of justice. This risk is elevated in the case of old evidence, which may be degraded due to age.

Danny's Opinion
···
10/23/2019
Quit giving tax dollars away. Balance the budget.
Like (26)
Follow
Share
Loraki's Opinion
···
10/25/2019
This is a state and local law enforcement issue. And HOW MUCH IS OUR NATIONAL DEBT NOW?! Congress, you need to spend our tax dollars more wisely and in a manner consistent with our Constitution.
Like (9)
Follow
Share
JTJ's Opinion
···
10/23/2019
Do you believe that the government has been managing this well? No they have not. Not an appropriate function of the federal government. This is better managed and funded by the states.
Like (9)
Follow
Share

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed October 23rd, 2019
    Roll Call Vote 402 Yea / 1 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedJanuary 24th, 2019

Log in or create an account to see how your Reps voted!

What is House Bill H.R. 777?

This bill — the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019 — would reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act’s grants that support state and local efforts to process DNA evidence in rape kits. Specifically, it would authorize grants through FY2024 under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program; grants to provide DNA training and education for law enforcement personnel, corrections personnel, and court officers; and grants under the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program.

The Debbie Smith Act authorizes Congress to allocate $151 million a year to state and local labs for DNA and rate kit testing. The law expired on September 30, 2019, as the House didn’t reauthorize it by the deadline.

Impact

Sexual assault survivors; untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes; rape kits; DNA training and education for law enforcement, correctional personnel, and court officers; and the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 777

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, which provides much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct forensic analysis of DNA evidence collected from crime scenes, including untested rape kits: 

“The Debbie Smith Act has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law for good reason; no rape survivor should be made to wait for justice because their local police precinct doesn’t have the resources to test their rape kit. This grant program is vital for local law enforcement and victims of crime across the country. We need to reauthorize this program so that precincts have the resources to process and match DNA evidence, including sexual assault kits, quickly and accurately. The resources from this grant program have enabled law enforcement to make 192,000 DNA matches in criminal cases since 2005. I’m very proud of what this program has accomplished, and I hope that Congress will act quickly to reauthorize it for another five years.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) adds

“Too many victims of sexual assault never get the justice they deserve. DNA evidence is often the only way to find and convict abusers, but there is an appalling backlog for processing DNA samples across the country. We need to reduce this backlog in order to swiftly identify and arrest violent predators. Reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act will provide our prosecutors with essential resources to tackle this backlog and make our communities safer.”

Senate sponsor Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to give state and local law enforcement agencies much-needed resources to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits:

“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. 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.”

When he introduced this bill in the 115th Congress, Sen. Cornyn said:

“[The Debbie Smith Act] 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.”

Nelson Bunn, Executive Director of the National District Attorney’s Association, says DNA funding is one of the “most critical investments” government can make to prosecute sex offenders: 

“DNA funding remains one of the most critical investments government can make for the members of our organization in order to prosecute sex offenders. DNA testing is the best tool we have to identify very serious offenders who remain at large, harming people in our communities, and the best weapon against wrongfully convicting an innocent person."

Debbie Smith, the sexual assault survivor for whom the Debbie Smith Act is named, says: 

“This funding is critically important to supporting the work of DNA analysts at crime labs throughout the country. Evidence from backlogged DNA cases can provide the answers investigators and prosecutors need in criminal cases. Testing the evidence tells victims that we care, that their case is important enough. That they are important.”  

In a September 5, 2019 op-ed in The Hill, Debbie Smith argued that DNA testing can take dangerous criminals off the streets and exonerate wrongfully imprisoned suspects: 

“Without [Debbie Smith grants], literally hundreds of thousands of cases would still be awaiting DNA analysis, while those victims await answers. Even more disturbing is the thought that dangerous criminals still roam free because the DNA evidence that could take them off the streets sits untested, creating more victims while continuing their criminal careers. Meanwhile, innocent suspects may be imprisoned in their place, with only DNA analysis standing between them and exoneration. By reauthorizing federal investment in DNA analysis, the House can do something about this; the House has the power to change lives.”

Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nancy, who also serves as President of Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, testified in favor of the Debbie Smith Act’s reauthorization last Congress:

“Each time the reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act comes up, we should do the hard work necessary to reevaluate our approach and raise the bar. We must push ourselves until each sexual assault kit is accounted for and every last one is processed – because every kit represents a brave woman waiting for justice. For some of these women, the clock is running out as the statute of limitations for rape approaches. Accountability in the reporting of existing backlogs must be required and processing of rape kits must be prioritized. We should never forget the picture of the deteriorating, abandoned warehouse in Detroit where some 11,000 rape kits were stockpiled, unopened and unprocessed for decades. Each of those kits represents a woman whose life was forever changed. She deserves closure. She deserves justice. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee has been committed to working on this issue on the federal level and with states to end the backlog. We will continue to commit ourselves to these women. It was my privilege to stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee today on behalf of each hurting woman represented by these unprocessed rape kits. They deserve better.”

In a September 2018 op-ed in the New York Times, Dr. Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology at Boise State University, cautioned that DNA evidence isn’t infallible. Citing a study by researcher from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (N.I.S.T.) which found 74 out of 105 American crime labs and three Canadian labs produced incorrect results from a DNA mixture, Hampikian argued that it’s necessary to view DNA evidence with more skepticism. He pointed out that the N.I.S.T. study found that “labs analyzing the same evidence calculated vastly different statistics” with a 100 trillion-fold variation between different labs’ match statistics.

This legislation has 15 bipartisan House cosponsors, including eight Democrats and seven Republicans. Its Senate companion (S.820), sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), unanimously passed the Senate with the support of 21 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 13 Republicans and eight Democrats. It’s since been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but committee Democrats has yet to take action on it.

Observing the House’s inaction on the Debbie Smith Act, RAINN president and founder Scott Berkowitz said on September 7, 2019, that “some in the House are using it [the Debbie Smith Act] as leverage to get the Senate to pass other things that have nothing to do with DNA testing,” which accounts for the House’s failure to reauthorize the Act. He added, “We need Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Steny H.] Hoyer to step up.”

The House reauthorized Debbie Smith funding as part of its April vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (H.R.1585), which means funding for the Act has passed both houses of Congress, but in different bills. As of early September 2019, the Senate hadn’t reauthorized VAWA. Sen. Hoyer spokeswoman Mariel Saez said that Rep. Hoyer was urging Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up the House’s April VAWA reauthorization. However, a McConnell spokesman said the majority leader wasn’t leading the Senate’s handling of VAWA.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, says political maneuvering by Democrats is the cause of the House’s failure to pass the Debbie Smith Act. When he introduced a resolution to bring the Debbie Smith Act to the House floor for a vote on October 16, 2019, he said

“Democrats allowed the Debbie Smith Act to expire 16 days ago. Today, Judiciary Democrats let another markup pass without considering this crucial legislation. Their political actions have endangered a vital resource that helps sexual assault survivors and victims bring their perpetrators to justice. Thousands of sexual assault and rape survivors have been waiting months or years for justice because their rape kits remain untested. The Debbie Smith Act helps law enforcement test rape kits more quickly and deliver justice more swiftly. The Senate has passed this legislation unanimously, so the only barrier standing between this bill and the president’s desk is House Democrats.”

Concerned Women for America, H-E-A-R-T (Hope Exists After Rape Trauma), RAINN, Natasha’s Justice Project, Debbie Smith, and the Joyful Heart Foundation support this legislation. 

Last Congress, this legislation was sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) with the support of two Democratic House cosponsors and didn’t see any committee action. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Cornyn, had the support of eight bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including five Democrats and three Republicans, and received a committee hearing but no committee vote


Of NoteThe Debbie Smith Act was first signed into law in 2004 and reauthorized in 2008 and 2014. It’s the primary program to end the backlog of untested and unanalyzed DNA evidence. Under the Debbie Smith Act, the federal government provides local and state crime laboratories with resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples, and increase DNA-processing capabilities to guard against future backlogs. 

Funds from the Debbie Smith Act can also be used to process offender DNA samples to ensure evidence from unsolved crimes can be matched against a known offender database, similar to the criminal fingerprint databases. Since 2011, there’s been an 85% increase in demand for DNA testing, putting a heavy burden on state and local crime labs.

Since the Debbie Smith Act’s enactment, over 860,000 cases have been processed. The National Institute of Justice reports that since 2005, Debbie Smith funds have contributed to making matches to over 195,000 cases in the national DNA database. It’s also led to three million offender DNA profiles’ uploads, accounting for 18% of all offender profiles in CODIS. According to the FBI, as of July 2019, CODIS has produced over 475,803 hits and assisted in more than 465,270 investigations into a range of crimes, including murder, rape, burglary, and vandalism. Furthermore, according to the National Institute of Justice, 42% of CODIS hits are the direct result of Debbie Smith Act funding.

Debbie Smith — whom the Debbie Smith Act is named for — was sexually assaulted by a stranger who broke into her home in 1989. Although she underwent a sexual assault forensic exam, the DNA evidence wasn’t analyzed for over five years. In 1994, the forensic evidence was finally entered into CODIS, the FBI’s national database, and yielded a “hit” identifying the perpetrator, who was already incarcerated on a 161-year sentence for robbing and abducting two women. He was brought to trial and eventually convicted for Debbie Smith’s rape.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ktsimage)

AKA

Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019

Official Title

To reauthorize programs authorized under the Debbie Smith Act of 2004.

    DNA evidence has both helped to catch thousands of criminals and clear thousands of wrongly accused
    Like (54)
    Follow
    Share
    Quit giving tax dollars away. Balance the budget.
    Like (26)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA is a critical piece of evidence to victims of rapists finding justice. So many criminals go free because we lack the evidence of their wrongdoing. We must process this evidence and identify the criminals.
    Like (42)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA evidence has both helped to convict and clear people. It is disheartening that so many rape cases weren't tested in many areas of the country, particularly Wayne County Michigan, allowing rapists to go undetected for years. YES, reauthorize.
    Like (29)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, it makes sense to process the backlog of cases. However, I think the funds would be better spent on a central high tech, high volume lab to expeditiously process stored evidence in a scientifically consistent manner, to remove arguments regarding the veracity of results, to ensure that stored evidence has not been corrupted through mishandling, and to generally be a resource to speed up DNA processing which is often a critical component of ongoing investigations. I would charge the FBI forensics people with oversight to ensure that high standards are maintained.
    Like (22)
    Follow
    Share
    Absolutely! Only rapists would vote no.
    Like (17)
    Follow
    Share
    The argument in favor fails to say that DNA will also provide life saving evidence for someone who is innocent of a crime as well, not just to convict the guilty.
    Like (16)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes. Do not allow superstition and mythology to stand in the way of science.
    Like (12)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA evidence has helped solve a lot of cold cases and even freed innocent individuals for crimes they did not commit.
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA evidence can help in identifying criminals, successfully prosecuting crimes, and making communities safer. Reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act will help law enforcement investigate crimes and close cold cases, including rapes, to give victims and families justice.
    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
    The program appears to have a lot of good points.
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    This is a state and local law enforcement issue. And HOW MUCH IS OUR NATIONAL DEBT NOW?! Congress, you need to spend our tax dollars more wisely and in a manner consistent with our Constitution.
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    Do you believe that the government has been managing this well? No they have not. Not an appropriate function of the federal government. This is better managed and funded by the states.
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    Local state issue state should be funding this not the federal government
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    Federal funding? What a concept. If you feed a seagull a fish every day, the seagull will be back tomorrow for its handout. Why must the federal taxpayer's wallet be a piggy bank for the state? We certainly know that CA, NY, NJ or IL can't pay for DNA kits.
    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
    Why impeach: Sexual Predator: Accused by more than 20 women of molestation and rape. Bragged about said molestation on tape. Has cheated on all three wives (see above). Has made sexual remarks on camera about his daughter. Belittles and bully’s women. Not even sure he’s aware he has two daughters. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, is running a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvents U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President trump. Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas. Look them up. North Korea just tested a submarine launched missile. He just released 10,000 Isis fighters into the world when he betrayed the Kurds. Our allies who have fought against Isis right beside our troops for years. They are being slaughtered right now. All because he has a tower in Istanbul. “The Americans betrayed us. We do not trust them anymore,” she added. These used to be our Kurdish allies that stood against ISIS. He is refusing to comply with the law. He is using the power of the presidency to withhold aide to one of the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in exchange for political favors in order to sway the 20/20 election. He is acting like a criminal and threatening the life of the whistleblower. Mr. America first is sending troops to Saudi Arabia in support of a murdering dictator who spends millions at his hotels and resorts. Corey Lewandowski testified to congress that trump ordered him to obstruct justice. He is blocking information that pertains to the safety of our country from reaching congress. He has been threatening NOAA, a federal agency, with punishment if they do not disavow the truth and side with his lies. He invited the Taliban to Camp David the week of 9/11. He is a #PussyAssBitch He’s doctoring weather maps to try and prove he’s not an idiot. He has stayed at trump properties 293 days in 3 years, that’s our tax dollars going directly into his pocket. He took money from military daycares to pay for a wall that won’t work and no one wants. The Vice President and the Attorney General are both spending tax payer dollars on trump hotels, lining his pockets and currying his favor. He has privately instructed aides to skirt laws and regulations to get the wall built faster — and told them he will pardon them if necessary. He is pressuring a government agency to give a contract for his wall to a company whose chief executive is a donor to one of his top GOP allies in Congress. He took hundreds of millions from 127 different projects (FEMA being one of those) for his wall. He thinks nuking a hurricane is an idea. He is host the next G-7 at one of his own resorts. Again our tax dollars paying him directly. He taunted Iran by tweeting a classified image of an Iranian rocket that had exploded, thereby potentially compromising U.S. intelligence capabilities. His own company would save millions from the low interest rates he is demanding. He was going to give you tax cuts through your paychecks but decided not to. This year the richest of us payed less in taxes than the rest of us. He is destroying the economy with HIS trade war. We will soon average a 1.2 trillion deficit. He is repeating NRA talking points on background checks so expect no action taken regardless of the fact there has been 27 arrested over threats to commit mass attacks since El Paso( NOT TOLEDO). He made fun of republicans being afraid of the NRA and then caved after a 30 minute phone conversation with them. He bragged about indefinite child detention because it brings families together. He is refusing flue shots, that protect us all(google influenza pandemic), to immigrant children. He is attacking fellow congresswomen in really disgusting ways and making anti-Semitic remarks about Jews calling them disloyal. He thinks he’s the chosen one based on a conspiracy theory web sight. He has: Obstructed Justice. Is profiting from the Presidency. Colluded - They had a meeting & lied about it. Advocated political & police violence. Abuse of power. Engaging in reckless behavior. Persecuting political opponents. Attacking the free press. Violating immigrants Right to Due Process. Violating campaign finance laws. Racist: Speaks directly to and often tweeting straight from white supremacists. Calls them very fine people. Told fellow congresswomen to go back where they came from. Called them shit hole countries. Called them murderers and rapists. Calls her Pocahontas. Took out full page adds calling for the death of five innocent black kids in New York, 1989. Literally has said in an interview he has Hitlers speeches, My New Order in his nightstand. Our Money: Spent campaign finance money on hush payments to silence a porn star he had an affair with in order to hide it from the voters. Has spent over $100 million of our tax dollars playing golf at his own golf courses. Has never divested from companies and advertises and profits off the White House. Was going to cut Medicaid and Medicare funding to pay for the tax cuts he gave to the rich. Is actively destroying farmers lives with his trade wars that we all know only hurts our pockets not Chinas. Has made the lives of every truck driver across America as well as our own, more dangerous by removing safety regulations that only benefits the pockets of the CEOs of those companies. Has removed any and all protections we had in place from work safety, environment, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and gives that power back to the CEOs, oil companies, men and old white men. Saudi funded lobbyist rented 500 rooms at a trump hotel he never divested from right after he became president. Wonder why? Has allowed North Korea to grow there nuclear weapons program. Took the side of Putin over America’s own security agencies on the national stage. Lacks the intelligence and facts needed to communicate on a global level much less national one. Makes policy decisions based on FOX media. Lies when speaks. Doesn’t believe in science and quite often displays his ignorance of it. Russia: Lied about meetings with Russians. Lied about a trump tower Moscow. Personal attorney Michael Cohen (same guy who broke campaign finance laws under trumps direction) had contacts with russian officials. National Security aide Flynn resigned over Russian contacts. Jeff Sessions recused himself because of Russian contacts. Manafort resigned because of Russian contacts. Campaign foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos met with Russians then bragged about it to Australians who then turned that info over to our FBI. Sixteen campaign officials had contacts with Russia and at least nine others new about it. Russian mobster lived in trump tower. trump casino was flagged 106 times for lax money laundering standards and same Russian frequently stayed at trump casino. Has been selling real estate to Russians for years. It really is surprising how many connections to Russians this man has. Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Bill Posey You are my representatives. OLC policy: The indictment or criminal prosecution of a crime sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. It’s time to do your job. You swore an oath to this country, it’s people and me to uphold the constitution. The president has never upheld that oath. How do you want to be remembered?
    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, DNA could help make our society a better one, so it is worth testing.
    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
    As a survivor of sexual assault I’m commonly asked why I didn’t report. Not only is the process mentally, financially (court), and physically demanding the rape kit backlog is one of the many ways that we have let down thousands of survivors. Voting yes on this important act is crucial and while I know it’s already passed unanimously in the Senate it should be a vote yes in the House of Representatives and can be with enough support. Continue to voice your opinion on this important act and further help survivors everywhere in any way you can.
    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA testing is a very important process to acquire evidence against individuals who committed crimes, but it has exonerated thousands who were wrongfully convicted for crimes they didn't commit and in some cases helped prevent innocent people from winding up in prison. It may mistakes some times, but this tool has many merits to keep it there not only because it can help identify who is responsible for a crime, but also protect the innocent from being punished for crimes they didn't commit. I would recommend congress reauthorize this initiative.
    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
    DNA rape cases testing needs to be funded
    Like (4)
    Follow
    Share
    MORE