Judiciary Committee Strengthens Rape Laws


Legislation allows prosecutors to charge DNA profile as a person in rape cases

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation by a former emergency room doctor that will give Tennessee prosecutors a new weapon in rape cases where the Statute of Limitations is about to expire.  Under the measure sponsored by Senator Mark Green, MD, (R-Clarksville), prosecutors will soon be able to obtain a “John Doe” arrest warrant based on the perpetrator’s DNA profile, saving the case from dismissal on grounds that too much time has passed.


“To me, this is personal,” Dr. Green declared, noting that as an emergency room physician, he treated “all too many rape victims who could not identify their attackers.”


“Approximately 90,000 women are raped every year in the United States, with only 25 percent of these attacks resulting in arrests,” he added.  “It’s heartbreaking for the victims and their families when, years later, they are told that even if the perpetrator is caught, he can’t be prosecuted because too much time has expired – especially when courts at all levels have recognized the validity of DNA tests in identifying suspects and establishing guilt.”


Senate Bill 831 will allow a criminal prosecution to be commenced by issuing an arrest warrant that identifies the perpetrator based on the DNA profile.


“Skilled emergency room personnel often obtain DNA evidence that identifies the perpetrator of rape, even if the victim herself cannot do so,” Dr. Green noted.


“As the DNA registry expands – often because these individuals are arrested for some other crime – and better technology decreases the time it takes for analysis, this legislation will be increasingly valuable to prosecutors seeking justice,” he predicted.


“The science of DNA comparison is changing the way law enforcement agencies treat and investigate rape and sexual assault,” Dr. Green said.  “It is already resulting in more detailed police investigations and greater rates of conviction.  This bill ensures that Tennessee law keeps pace with this emerging science so that prosecutions will be kept alive even when the perpetrator can’t be brought to justice within the time allowed by the statute of limitations.”