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Gallegly DNA "Cold Hit" Provisions Approved

Location: Washington, DC

Gallegly DNA "Cold Hit" Provisions Approved

WASHINGTON, DC—The House of Representatives today passed provisions championed by Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties) that would provide federal grants to local prosecutors to help them prosecute cases stemming from "cold hit" DNA cases—cases where DNA on file matches evidence in a previously unsolved crime.

Gallegly's provisions were included in "The Children's Safety Act of 2005," which unanimously passed the House today. A previous version of the bill passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate. The Senate is expected to pass the current version and send it the President this month.

"Once a crime has been solved, society owes it to the victim to prosecute the perpetrator," Gallegly said. "Equally, society needs to be assured that known criminals are not out on the streets committing more crimes and victimizing more people.

"Children are society's most vulnerable citizens. While all criminals belong behind bars, crimes against children are particularly heinous. It's crucial that we identify and prosecute those who prey on the innocent."

The DNA provisions come from Gallegly's bill, "The Grants for DNA Backlog Prosecutions Act," which he introduced last year. It creates a five-year grant program to help prosecutors bring cold hit cases to court.

In 2004, the President requested and Congress began funding a five-year, billion-dollar DNA Initiative to process old DNA samples from crime scenes and enter them into a matching database. However, none of the monies were earmarked to prosecute the criminals.

As DNA samples were matched with cold cases, the workload for local prosecutors increased dramatically. California was one of the first states affected due to the passage of Proposition 69 in November 2004. Prop. 69 immediately required the state to collect DNA samples from all convicted felons for a statewide DNA database to solve crimes.

DNA cold hit cases tend to be complex murder and sexual assault crimes. In Ventura County alone, District Attorney Greg Totten estimated DNA cold hits could identify a perpetrator in more than 300 unsolved homicide cases.

"The number of rape and homicide cases solved through DNA technology is increasing at an astonishing rate every year and is quickly outpacing the ability of prosecutors to keep up," Totten said last year. "In recognizing and attacking this national problem, Congressman Gallegly's bill is a direct aid to victims in Ventura County and elsewhere who have longed to finally see justice done for their loved ones. Once again, Congressman Gallegly has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to law enforcement and crime victims."

According to the California District Attorneys Association, the database averages three cold hit cases a day. As of late 2005, 1,200 cold hits had been made in California, with forecasts that it will lead to 4,000 new cases a year.

In addition to Gallegly's provisions, the "Children's Safety Act" would:

* Improve the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Program to ensure that sex offenders register—and keep current—where they reside, work, and attend school;
* Create the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to search for sex offender information in each community;
* Require states to notify each other when sex offenders move from one state to another;
* Create a new criminal penalty of up to a maximum of 20 years for sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements;
* Protect foster children from sexual abuse and exploitation and increase criminal penalties for child sexual predators; and
* Strengthen efforts to assist local law enforcement in targeting and prosecuting violent criminals who are associated with street gangs, an issue Gallegly has championed for many years.

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