What is the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012?

A 2009 report to Congress by the National Academy of Sciences reported that the forensic evidence has been weakened by a lack of standards in the discipline.

In other words, throughout many forensic science disciplines, forensic science personnel cannot establish the validity of their approach of the accuracy of their conclusions, and the court had not done anything to address the problem.

In fact, the Washington Post found that inconsistent and unsound forensic work may have meant the wrongful convictions of thousands of people. A Washington Post article later implored the Justice Department to review all cases that ended in a conviction. It was later revealed that the Justice Department and the FBI had begun to review the cases.

Addressing the concerns of the Washington Post, a number of stakeholders within the criminal justice community, and the National Academy of Sciences, the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012, which was introduced in July 2012, addresses the following:

Research – The bill would establish a National Forensic Science Coordinating Office, which would involve developing research strategies for relevant federal agencies. The NSF would also establish a forensic science grant program that would provide funding that would create forensic science research centers where research would be conducted and relationships would be built between forensic practitioners and students.

Standards Development – The National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to the bill, would be called upon to develop forensic science standards. NIST could seek advice from experts to identify the development of standards.

Uniform Standards – The bill would introduce a Forensic Science Advisory Committee, which would make recommendations to the Attorney General on the adoption of new standards, and the Attorney General would then direct the implementation of standards. The Committee would also encourage the adoption of these standards in non-federal laboratories as a condition of federal funding.