Three major criminal justice groups are seeking approval by Congress in its “lame-duck” session after next month’s elections to approve bills that would authorize federal funding for speedier DNA testing of suspects by police. The National District Attorneys Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police wrote yesterday to House leaders seeking passage of the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 and the Rapid DNA Act of 2015. Congress plans to reconvene after the Nov. 8 elections, but it is not clear how much legislation will be acted on before lawmakers adjourn.
The groups said the Justice for All bill “contains important provisions related to crime victims’ rights, rape kit backlog reduction, improvements in forensic science and post-conviction DNA testing … The bill not only helps investigate and prosecute the guilty, but also helps protect the innocent.” The measure includes Paul Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grants that provide funding for DNA analysis and other forensic disciplines such as latent prints, digital evidence and toxicology, while making accreditation of crime labs mandatory. Earlier this year, a broad coalition of criminal justice organizations backed approval of “Justice for All,” saying it would help “provide justice to more victims, by supporting work to reduce the rape kit backlog, assisting law enforcement in auditing backlogged cases, and expanding the use of sexual assault nurse examiners in underserved communities.” The Senate has approved both the Justice for All bill and the Rapid DNA Act of 2015, which allows the FBI to use “rapid DNA” instruments that may be able to include or exclude an arrestee as a potential suspect within two hours.