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Added August 2011DNA

Statutes of Limitation

Statutes of limitation establish time limits during which criminal charges can be filed. However, due to the viability of DNA over time, some states have eliminated the statute of limitations for certain sexual assaults when a DNA profile is available.

The National Conference of State Legislators’ Web site lists states’ statutes of limitations related to sexual assault (as of 2007); a breakdown follows:7

  • No statute of limitation for cases involving rape: Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
  • No statute of limitation for cases involving sexual assault if a police report was filed within 4 years of the assault: Nevada.
  • No statute of limitation for prosecutions of the most serious felonies (often Class A), including rape: Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont.
  • Statute of limitation is extended or eliminated for specified crimes if the identity of the perpetrator is established by DNA: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Other states allow prosecutors who have an identifiable DNA profile for an individual, but no match in the database, to issue John Doe or no-name warrants based on a genetic profile. John Doe DNA warrants and indictments require collecting and testing crime scene evidence within the statute of limitations and require a finding of probable cause that the individual whose genetic profile is described in the warrant or indictment committed the charged offense.

More information about state-specific statutes as well as mandatory reporting and confidentiality laws can be found here.

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Paul Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act

The Paul Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act was enacted in 2000 [42 U.S.C. §§ 3797j et seq. (2002)]. The act authorizes federal funds to be used by states to improve procedures for testing DNA samples, hire and train personnel, modernize laboratory equipment, and improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science services. The Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program awards the federal funds.