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Public Statements

Unanimous - Consent Agreement - S.2845

Location: Washington DC

Oct. 9, 2004


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, several hours ago, Senator Hatch came to the floor to discuss the DNA bill that we have been able to pass. I congratulate him for the fine work on that bill. A number of people have worked on that bill.

I became interested in this issue a number of years ago. I have been interested in the whole area of crime technology, frankly, going back to my work as county prosecuting attorney in Greene County, OH, many years ago.

In those days, we did not have DNA. We did not have a lot of the technology we have today. I have been able to watch over the years, as I know the current occupant of the chair has, the great development of technology which has revolutionized what we can do today in law enforcement to solve crime. It has been one of the things I have worked on since I have been in public office-first, my time in the State legislature, then in the House of Representatives, and when I was Lieutenant Governor of the State of Ohio, and now, in the last decade, in the Senate.

I specifically became interested in what turned out to be this bill we have been talking about today, the DNA bill, several years ago when I met with the BCI back in Ohio, which is our State lab and State bureau, and went out there to find out some of the things that needed to be done. I had a long discussion with them in London, OH, about the real problem we have in Ohio and the problem we have across this country.

It is a problem of what we call rape kits; where there is a rape victim, the police go in, they take evidence from that victim, and then many times, tragically, I have learned-I know my colleague who is in the chair understands this-these rape kits are stored, they are never processed, and that information never gets into any central database. There is a tremendous backlog of this across this country.

Because of this, to try to help clear up this backlog, I introduced S. 149, the Rape Kits and DNA Evidence Backlog Elimination Act of 2003. About the same time, roughly the same time, Senator Biden introduced a bill which had the same intent to deal with this problem. Chairman Hatch asked me later on to combine my bill with his and those of other Members to create the bill we have today. When he asked me to do that, I gladly agreed.

Today, we all proudly stand as cosponsors of this bipartisan legislation. I know my colleague in the chair has worked on this legislation. I think it is a piece of legislation that all Americans can be proud of and that will help Americans be safer. The provisions of my original bill that are included in the legislation we passed today will protect innocent victims and will, in fact, put criminals behind bars. It will do both.

This bill includes my language to authorize over $1 billion to eliminate the backlog of over half a million rape kits that are sitting on the shelves of evidence lockers in police stations across this Nation.

Let me emphasize again that there are over half a million rape kits that have not been tested and therefore have not been put into a central database. How many of these rape kits contain evidence that would take a rapist off the streets? Well, we can't be sure, but we do know statistically that approximately one in eight of all kits currently tested in Ohio do, in fact, result in a match in our DNA database to a rapist. That is an unbelievable figure, one in eight will result in this statistical match.

In fact, approximately the same number will link the rape to another crime scene, giving our law enforcement officers one more piece of critical evidence that may, in fact, lead to the arrest of a criminal and the prevention of future crimes.

If you add these two figures together, you can see that nearly one in four of all rape kits tested will result in key evidence for law enforcement. That is a staggering statistic and demonstrates the power of modern technology when, in fact, it is used to fight crime.

This bill also includes my language that will expand the number of criminals that we put in our Federal DNA database. Very simply, this language will expand the current reporting requirement to include all Federal felons, not just a few specific felons as required under current law. Of course, the more information that goes into the DNA database, the more likely it becomes that we will match evidence from the crime scene to the DNA profile of the criminal in the database.

Additionally, this language will permit States to cross-reference DNA information from people under State indictment with the current Federal database. For example, if a criminal is arrested and indicted in New York, and the New York law enforcement officers enter the DNA information in their State database, this law permits New York to share this information with the Federal database so all participating States can access the information.

This means that a police officer could link DNA evidence from a crime in Ohio to an arrestee in New York. Again, by realizing the full potential of available technology, we will identify more criminals, prevent more crimes, and protect more innocent victims.

Finally, this bill includes my language that will extend the period of time in which law enforcement officers can utilize DNA evidence to solve crimes. Under current law, the statute of limitations for all Federal offenses starts when the crime is committed.

Under my language, if DNA evidence is found at the crime scene, the statute of limitations for most crimes does not start to run until the DNA evidence is matched to a criminal in the database. This means that criminals will not be able to escape justice merely because they were able to avoid capture for a specific period of time.

This bill also contains the Crime Victims Act for which I am an original cosponsor. This act provides victims with the right to be heard and considered during Federal criminal prosecutions.

As I know everyone here agrees, we owe it to rape victims, crime victims in our society as a whole, to do all we can to apprehend violent criminals. This bill takes a significant step in that direction.

I thank Senator Hatch for his excellent leadership, being so steadfast in doggedly pursuing the agreement necessary in the Senate to pass this bill. Passage of this bill is a testament to his leadership as chairman of our committee. I also thank Senators LEAHY, BIDEN, and FEINSTEIN for working tirelessly to achieve this momentous outcome.

I thank Chairman Sensenbrenner, as well as Representative Delahunt in the House for their outstanding leadership that resulted in a nearly unanimous vote of support by that body.

Our great Nation will be safer and our confidence in our standing judicial system will be reinforced as a result of this timely and much needed legislation.

I would also like to thank the many staff who worked on this bill. Specifically, I would like to recognize the Chief Counsels of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees for their commitment to get this bill done: Bruce Artim and Phil Kiko. I also thank Brett Tolman, who crafted a key compromise in the bill that allowed the parties to come together; Katy Crooks, who worked tirelessly to better this bill; Jay Apperson and Mark Agrast, who brought their outstanding wisdom to the process, Julie Katzman, Neil McBride, Jon Meyer, Christine Leonard, Louisa Terrell, Bruce Cohen, Tara Magner, David Brog, Ted Lehman and David Hantman for their strong knowledge of critical issues; and my exceptional legislative team that worked so very hard on this for me and the people of Ohio: Paul Palagyi, Peter Levitas, Robin Blackwell, Ann O'Donnell and my Crime Counsel Robert Steinbuch. And my former Crime Counsel Evelyn Fortier.

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