Little noticed in the unusual Saturday session, the Debbie Smith bill passed the US Senate. The Justice for All Act of 2004 (H.R. 5107), previously passed by the House, incorporates the Debbie Smith Act, the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act (H.R. 3214) and includes the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act (S. 152). The measure authorizes more than $7.55 billion in grants over a period of five years to local and state authorities to process a backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other sexual assault evidence, and DNA samples in cases where suspects have yet to be identified.
“I am thrilled that this legislation will finally become the law of the land,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who worked for more than two years for passage of the Debbie Smith Act. “With the use of DNA technology, we will ensure that rapists are thrown in jail and the innocent are not wrongly imprisoned. Debbie Smith waited six long years to learn that her rapist was already in prison. Now, other victims will not have to wait for justice.”
“We have an opportunity and an obligation to do more and to make the connection between the extraordinary advances in DNA technology and our commitment to fighting violence against women,” said Senator Joseph Biden, (D-DE) in his comments about the DNA Sexual Assault Act he sponsored that is now included as part of this Act. “This bill will help law enforcement officials take justice off the shelf and put more criminals behind bars.”
If signed into law by the President, this Act will also have a significant impact on the rights of victims of federal crimes, including reasonable protection from the accused and timely and accurate notice of any public proceeding involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused. Additional funding of $22 million over the next five years is authorized for Victim/Witness Programs to carry out the provisions of the Act, and grants will be made available to organizations that provide legal counsel and support services to crime victims.