Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (10/26/2000)

Paul Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act of 2000 - Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to authorize the use of drug control and system improvement (Byrne) grants to improve the quality, timeliness, and credibility of forensic science services for criminal justice purposes.

Provides that if any grant amount is used for such purposes, the State application must include a certification that, as of the date of enactment, the State has established: (1) a forensic science laboratory or system that employs one or more full-time scientists whose principal duties are the examination of physical evidence for law enforcement agencies in criminal matters and who provided testimony with respect to such physical evidence, employs generally accepted practices and procedures, and is accredited by the Laboratory Accreditation Board of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors or the National Association of Medical Examiners or will use a portion of the grant amount to prepare and apply for such accreditation within two years of the date on which a grant is initially awarded; or (2) a medical examiner's office that employs generally accepted practices and procedures, and is, or within two years will be, accredited.

Establishes a forensic sciences improvement grant program. Directs the Attorney General to award such grants if specified conditions are met. Requires a State, to request a grant, to submit to the Attorney General: (1) a certification that the State has developed a consolidated State plan for forensic science laboratories operated by the State or by other units of local government within the State and a specific description of the manner in which the grant will be used to carry out that plan; (2) a certification that any forensic science laboratory system, medical examiner's office, or coroner's office in the State, including any laboratory operated by a unit of local government within the State, that will receive any portion of the grant amount uses generally accepted laboratory practices and procedures; and (3) a specific description of any new facility to be constructed as part of such a program, the estimated costs of that facility, and a certification that the amount of the grant used for the costs of the facility will not exceed specified limitations.

Directs that 75 percent of the amount made available to carry out the program in each fiscal year be allocated to each State that meets requirements of the Act so that each State shall receive an amount that bears the same ratio to the 75 percent of the total amount made available to carry out the program for that fiscal year as the population of the State bears to the population of all States. Allocates 25 percent to the Attorney General's discretion to States with above average rates of part one violent crimes based on the average annual number of part one violent crimes reported by such State to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the three most recent calendar years for which such data is available. Directs that each State receive not less than .6 percent of the amount made available to carry out the program in each fiscal year, and, if that is insufficient to pay in full the total payment that any State is otherwise eligible to receive, that the Attorney General reduce other payments to the extent of such insufficiency.

Requires a State that receives a grant to use it to carry out all or a substantial part of a program intended to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science or medical examiner services in the State, including such services provided by the laboratories operated by the State and those operated by units of local government within the State.

Specifies that, with respect to a State that receives a grant in an amount that does not exceed .6 percent of the total amount made available to carry out the program for a fiscal year, not more than 80 percent of the total grant amount may be used for the costs of any new facility constructed as part of such a program. Provides that, with respect to a State that receives a grant in an amount that exceeds .6 percent, not more than: (1) 80 percent of the grant amount up to that .6 percent may be used for the costs of any new facility constructed as part of such a program; and (2) 40 percent of the grant amount in excess of that .6 percent may be used for the costs of any new facility constructed as part of such a program.

Includes units of local government within the State within the scope of requirements regarding the keeping of expenditure records, access to records, and reporting requirements. Authorizes appropriations for the elimination of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) convicted offender database sample backlogs and for other related purposes.

Amends the Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998 to repeal the 20 percent floor for crime lab grants.

Repeals a provision of the Federal criminal code, regarding general rules for civil forfeiture proceedings, requiring that a claim provide customary documentary evidence of the claimant's interest in the property and state that the claim is not frivolous.

Expresses the sense of Congress that Congress should: (1) condition forensic science-related grants to a State or State forensic facility on the State's agreement to ensure post-conviction DNA testing in appropriate cases; and (2) work with the States to improve the quality of legal representation in capital cases through the establishment of standards that will assure the timely appointment of competent counsel with adequate resources to represent defendants in capital cases at each stage of the proceedings.