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H.R. 3695 (111th): Billy’s Law


The text of the bill below is as of Oct 1, 2009 (Introduced).


I

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 3695

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

October 1, 2009

(for himself and Mr. Poe of Texas) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To authorize funding for, and increase accessibility to, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, to facilitate data sharing between such system and the National Crime Information Center database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to provide incentive grants to help facilitate reporting to such systems, and for other purposes.

1.

Short Title

This Act may be cited as the Help Find the Missing Act or Billy’s Law.

2.

Findings

The Congress finds as follows:

(1)

Every year tens of thousands of Americans go missing, never to be seen by their loved ones again.

(2)

As of 2004, there are an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified remains that are being held by medical examiner or coroner offices or disposed of across the country.

(3)

According to the National Institute of Justice, only 6,000 of such cases of unidentified remains have been entered into the National Crime Information Center’s Unidentified Person File of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this section referred to as NCIC).

(4)

As of December 31, 2008, there were 102,764 missing persons records active in the NCIC.

(5)

The estimated numbers of missing persons and unidentified human remains in the United States are not complete because reporting to NCIC by local law enforcement entities, medical examiner offices, and coroner offices of information on missing adults or unidentified decedents is voluntary.

(6)

The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 5779), as amended by Suzanne’s Law (section 204 of the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 (PROTECT Act, Public Law 108–21)) requires Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to report cases of missing children and individuals under the age of 21 to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. There is no similar Federal law requiring Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies to report missing adults or unidentified decedents cases.

(7)

Law enforcement entities, medical examiners, and coroners need assistance to acquire the tools to report missing adults and unidentified remains and the purpose of this Act is to provide incentive grants to provide such entities with such assistance.

(8)

According to a Bureau of Justice and Statistics special report on its 2004 Census of Medical Examiner and Coroners’ Offices, 80 percent of surveyed medical examiners offices and coroners offices reported using the NCIC rarely or never, with increased workload and cost of access as obstacles.

(9)

There are many Federal, State, local, and non-profit databases that can be used to help identify unidentified remains. However, such databases are not connected and most have little or no search capability and are not able to be viewed or searched by the public.

(10)

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was established in July 2007 by the Department of Justice under the President’s DNA Initiative to provide a missing persons/unidentified remains database that the public could access and to which the public could contribute and search. NamUs is currently funded by the National Institute of Justice under the Department of Justice.

(11)

As of September 2009, 42 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have medical examiners, coroners, or both entering cases into the NamUs unidentified persons system. Forty-five States have law enforcement officers registered and using the NamUs missing persons system. All 50 States have missing persons in the NamUs databases.

(12)

In 2007 a focus group funded by the National Institute of Justice that consisted of national experts in human identification and technology, medical examiners and coroners, forensic anthropologists, odontologists, DNA scientists, death investigators, and technology experts determined three major areas of needs in the human identification community (all of which are identified in this Act), including an accessible unidentified decedent database; best practices guidelines; and technology, training, and research.

(13)

The January 2007 National Institute of Justice Journal publication, titled “Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster”, identified major gaps in the Nation’s missing persons system. Such identified gaps, which this legislation addresses, included the lack of—

(A)

reporting of missing adults and unidentified remains by local law enforcement and medical examiners and coroners because of insufficient time and resources;

(B)

information sharing among Federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases;

(C)

policies to collect DNA samples from unidentified remains;

(D)

resources to perform DNA analysis of human remains; and

(E)

knowledge among law enforcement agencies about State missing persons clearinghouses or the Federal databases.

3.

Authorization of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

(a)

In general

The Attorney General, through the Director of the National Institute of Justice, is authorized to maintain public databases, known as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs, to contain missing persons records and unidentified remains cases for purposes of assisting to identify missing people and solve cases of unidentified human remains. All functions, personnel, assets, liabilities, and administrative actions applicable to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System carried out by the National Institute of Justice on the date before the date of the enactment of this Act shall be transferred to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System authorized under this section as of the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b)

Authorization of appropriations

There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $2,400,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2015.

4.

Sharing of information between NCIC and NamUS

(a)

Sharing of information

Not later than the end of the 30-day period beginning on the date the online data entry format is updated under subsection (c), the Attorney General shall, in accordance with this section, provide for information on missing persons and unidentified human remains contained in the NCIC database (as defined in section 8) to be transmitted to, entered in, and otherwise shared with the NamUs databases (as defined in such section) and for such information contained in the NamUs databases to be transmitted to, entered in, and otherwise shared with the NCIC database.

(b)

Rules on Confidentiality

(1)

In general

Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in this Act referred to as the FBI), shall promulgate rules pursuant to notice and comment that specify the information the Attorney General may provide from the NCIC files to the NamUs databases for purposes of this Act. Such rules shall—

(A)

provide for the protection of law enforcement sensitive, confidential, and private information contained in the NCIC files;

(B)

be promulgated only after the Director approves recommendations by the Advisory Policy Board of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI; and

(C)

not permit the transmission, entry, or sharing of information (or portions of information) from the NCIC database to the NamUs databases unless the authorized agency, with respect to the information submitted to the NCIC database, submits to the Attorney General written authorization to so transmit, enter, or share, respectively, such information (or portion of information).

(2)

Specifics

In promulgating rules with respect to paragraph (1)(C), the Attorney General—

(A)

shall specify the circumstances in which portions of information may be withheld from transfer, entry, or sharing from the NCIC database to the NamUs databases;

(B)

shall provide that once the authorized agency described in paragraph (1)(C) provides an authorization under such paragraph with respect to information, such authorization shall be deemed to apply to any updates made to such information, unless otherwise specified by the agency; and

(C)

with respect to information submitted to the NCIC database before the end of the 30-day period specified in subsection (a), may solicit from appropriate authorized agencies authorization described in such paragraph to transmit, enter, or share such information.

(c)

Updates

(1)

In general

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall update the online data entry format for the NCIC database and NamUs databases to provide State criminal justice agencies, offices of medical examiners, and offices of coroners with the option to authorize the submission of new information and data that is reported to and entered into the NCIC database to simultaneously be submitted to and entered into the NamUs databases.

(2)

NCIC format

(A)

In general

In the case of the NCIC database, an update described in paragraph (1) shall include—

(i)

an update to the NCIC database online data entry format that States use in submitting missing persons and unidentified remains reports, including the addition of a new data field allowing States, on behalf of the authorized agency that originally submitted the data, to select whether or not to have the NCIC report, subject to the rules promulgated under subsection (b), shared with the NamUs databases; and

(ii)

subject to subparagraph (B), a requirement that as a condition of participating in the NCIC database, States must update their missing persons and unidentified remains collection processes from local and tribal law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners to enable the States to acquire information on whether or not the authorized agencies originally submitting data with respect to a missing person or unidentified remains has provided authorization to share the information with the NamUs databases.

(B)

Exception

Subparagraph (A)(ii) shall not apply with respect to any State that has in effect a State law providing for a methodology to authorize the sharing of information between the NCIC database and NamUs databases.

(d)

Amendments to the National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 To require reports of missing children to NamUs

(1)

Reporting requirement

Section 3701(a) of the National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 5779) is amended by striking the period and inserting the following: and, consistent with section 4 (including rules promulgated pursuant to section 4(b)) of the Help Find the Missing Act, shall also report such case, either directly or through authorization described in such section to transmit, enter, or share information on such case, to the NamUs databases (as defined in section 8 of such Act)..

(2)

State requirements

Section 3701 of the National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 5780) is amended—

(A)

in paragraph (2), by striking or the National Crime Information Center computer database and inserting , the National Crime Information Center computer database, or the NamUs databases (as defined in section 8 of the Help Find the Missing Act);

(B)

in paragraph (3), by striking and the National Crime Information Center computer networks and inserting , the National Crime Information Center computer networks, and the NamUs databases (as so defined); and

(C)

in paragraph (4)—

(i)

in the matter preceding subparagraph (A), by inserting or the NamUs databases after National Crime Information Center; and

(ii)

in subparagraph (A), by striking and National Crime Information Center computer networks and inserting , National Crime Information Center computer networks, and the NamUs databases.

(3)

Effective date

The amendments made by this subsection shall apply with respect to reports made before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act beginning on the last day of the 30-day period described in subsection (a).

5.

Incentive grants program

(a)

Establishment

Not later than October 1, 2010, the Attorney General shall establish a program to provide grants to qualifying law enforcement agencies (as defined in subsection (j)), offices of coroners, offices of medical examiners, and other authorized agencies to facilitate the process of reporting information regarding missing persons and unidentified remains to the NCIC database and NamUs databases for purposes of assisting in locating such missing persons and identifying such remains.

(b)

Requirements

As a condition of a grant under this section, a grant recipient shall, with respect to each case reported to the agency or office of the recipient relating to a missing person described in a category under subsection (e) or relating to unidentified remains—

(1)

not later than 72 hours after such case is reported to the agency or office and consistent with subsection (c), submit to the NCIC database and NamUs databases—

(A)

in the case of a missing person described in a category under subsection (e), at least the minimum information described in subsection (f)(1); and

(B)

in the case of unidentified remains, at least the minimum information described in subsection (f)(2); and

(2)

not later than 60 days after the original entry of the report, verify and update any original report entered into the State law enforcement system, the NCIC database, or NamUs databases after receipt of the grant with any additional information, including, to the greatest extent possible—

(A)

information on the extent to which DNA samples are available, including the availability of such samples submitted to the National DNA Index System under subsection (b)(3);

(B)

fingerprints, medical and dental records, and photographs of any distinguishing characteristics such as scars, marks, tattoos, piercings, and other unique physical characteristics;

(C)

in the case of unidentified remains, photographs or digital images that may assist in identifying the decedent, including fingerprint cards, radiographs, palmprints, and distinctive features of the decedent’s personal effects; and

(D)

any other information determined to be appropriate by the Attorney General; and

(3)

not later than 60 days after the original entry of the report, to the greatest extent possible, submit to the National DNA Index System of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, established pursuant to section 210304 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, (either directly or through use of NamUs victims assistance resources and DNA collection services) DNA samples and information relating to such case.

For purposes of paragraph (2), in the case of information a grant recipient authorizes to be transferred, entered, or shared under section 4 between the NCIC database and NamUs databases, any update to such information shall be simultaneously made with respect to both databases unless specified otherwise by the recipient.
(c)

Submission of Reports

To satisfy subsection (b)(1), a recipient of a grant under this section shall submit information required under such subsection—

(1)

separately to the NCIC database and NamUs databases; or

(2)

in accordance with section 4, simultaneously to the NamUs databases when reporting to the NCIC database or to the NCIC database when reporting to the NamUs databases.

(d)

Permissible use of funds

(1)

In general

The permissible uses of grants awarded under this section include the use of funds—

(A)

to hire additional personnel, to acquire technology to facilitate timely data entry into the relevant databases;

(B)

to conduct contracting activities relevant to outsourcing the processing of unidentified remains and the reporting of the resulting information to the NCIC database and NamUs databases;

(C)

to train local law enforcement personnel, medical examiners, and coroners to use the NCIC database and NamUs databases;

(D)

to assist States’ transition into the new system under which information is shared between the NCIC database and NamUs databases; and

(E)

for other purposes consistent with the goals of this section.

(2)

Clarification

In no case may a recipient of a grant under this section use funds to enter or help facilitate the entrance of any false or misleading information about missing persons or unidentified remains.

(e)

Categories of Missing Persons

The categories of missing persons described in this subsection are the following:

(1)

A missing person age 21 or older who—

(A)

is senile or has suffering from a proven mental or physical disability, as documented by a source deemed credible to an appropriate law enforcement entity; or

(B)

is missing under circumstances that indicate, as determined by an appropriate law enforcement entity—

(i)

that the person’s physical safety may be endangered; or

(ii)

that the disappearance may not have been voluntary, such as abduction or kidnapping; or

(iii)

that the disappearance may have been caused by a natural disaster or catastrophe (such as an airplane crash or terrorist attack).

(2)

A missing person who does not meet the criteria described in paragraph (1) but who meets one of the following criteria:

(A)

There is a reasonable concern, as determined by an appropriate law enforcement entity for the safety of the missing person.

(B)

The person is under age 21 and emancipated under the laws of the person’s State of residence.

(f)

Minimum information required

(1)

Content for Missing Persons

The minimum information described in this section, with respect to a missing person, is the following:

(A)

The name, date of birth, city and State of residence, gender, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color of the missing person.

(B)

The date and location of the last known contact with the missing person.

(C)

The category described in subsection (e) in which the missing person is classified.

(2)

Content for Unidentified Human Remains

The minimum information described in this section, with respect to unidentified human remains, is the following:

(A)

The estimated age, gender, race, height, weight, hair color, and eye color.

(B)

Any distinguishing characteristics such as scars, marks, tattoos, piercings, and other unique physical characteristics.

(C)

A description of clothing found on the decedent.

(D)

City and State where the unidentified human remains were found.

(E)

Information on how to contact the law enforcement agency handling the investigation and the unidentified human remains.

(F)

Information on the extent to which DNA samples are available, including the availability of such samples submitted to the National DNA Index System under subsection (b)(3).

(g)

Administration

The Attorney General shall prescribe requirements, including with respect to applications, for grants awarded under this section and shall determine the amount of each such grant.

(h)

Confidentiality

As a condition of a grant under this section, the recipient of the grant shall ensure that information reported under the grant meets the requirements promulgated by the Attorney General under section 4(b)(1).

(i)

Annual Summary

For each of the fiscal years 2012 through 2015, the Attorney General shall publish an annual statistical summary of the reports required by subsection (c).

(j)

Qualifying law enforcement agency defined

For purposes of this Act, the term qualifying law enforcement agency means a State, local, or tribal law enforcement agency.

(k)

Authorization of Appropriations

There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $10,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2011 through 2015.

6.

Report on Best Practices

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall issue a report to offices of medical examiners, offices of coroners, and Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies describing the best practices for the collection, reporting, and analysis of data and information on missing persons and unidentified human remains. Such best practices shall—

(1)

provide an overview of the NCIC database and NamUs databases;

(2)

describe how local law enforcement agencies, offices of medical examiners, and offices of coroners should access and use the NCIC database and NamUs databases;

(3)

describe the appropriate and inappropriate uses of the NCIC database and NamUs databases; and

(4)

describe the standards and protocols for the collection, reporting, and analysis of data and information on missing persons and unidentified human remains.

7.

Report to Congress

(a)

In General

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act and biennially thereafter, the Attorney General shall submit to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report describing the status of the NCIC database and NamUs databases.

(b)

Contents

The report required by subsection (a) shall describe, to the extent available, information on—

(1)

the process of information sharing between the NCIC database and NamUs databases; and

(2)

the programs funded by grants awarded under section 5.

8.

Definitions

For the purposes of this Act, the following definitions apply:

(a)

Authorized agency

The term authorized agency means a government agency with an originating agency identification (ORI) number and that is a criminal justice agency, as defined for purposes of subpart A of part 20 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations.

(b)

NamUs databases

The term NamUs databases means the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System Missing Persons database and National Missing and Unidentified Persons System Unidentified Decedents database maintained by the National Institute of Justice of the Department of Justice.

(c)

NCIC database

The term NCIC database means the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File and National Crime Information Center Unidentified Person File of the National Crime Information Center database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, established pursuant to section 534 of title 28, United States Code.

(d)

State

The term State means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.