U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, today applauded progress on legislation he cosponsored to protect the rights of crime victims, and help reduce the backlogs in the collection and processing of DNA casework by law enforcement, especially sexual assault cases.
"Our country's judicial system was built on the principle of due process for all," Senator Coons said. "It is important that we reauthorize the Justice for All Act and better protect the rights of crime victims by making improvements to our current laws and reauthorize critical programs that make our communities safer. In this day and age, when DNA casework has redefined the way we prosecute criminal cases, we must try to reign in the backlog that is holding back our state, local, and national law enforcement agencies. I applaud my colleagues' work for coming together and passing this bill out of Committee, and I hope it will come to the full Senate for consideration soon."
The final version of the bill that was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday:
Enhances victims rights under the federal criminal code by ensuring that all victims have access to current information concerning all rights (including availability of free rape exams) and to the Office of Victims' Rights Ombudsman in the Department of Justice.
Requires the Director of the National Institute of Justice to establish best practices for evidence retention and to assist state, local, and tribal governments in adopting and implementing such practices.
Authorizes appropriations for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, the Paul Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grant Program, the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Grant Program, and crime victims legal assistance grants. To acknowledge current fiscal realities, the legislation reduces authorizations by over 20 percent when compared to the 2004 Act.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is the sponsor of the Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which he first championed in 2004.