By: Lexi Kakis
‘Billy’s Law’ has President Biden’s signature!
At the very end of 2022, President Biden signed the “Help Find The Missing Act” (S.5230) into law, making all future searches for lost loved ones more effective for families and law enforcement agencies. According to the bill, the main objective has always been to ”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, and for other purposes.”
The law was inspired by Billy Smolinski, a 31-year-old who vanished from Waterbury, Connecticut. On August 24, 2004, Billy had asked a neighbor to take care of his dog for a few days while he traveled to shop for a car. He left all of his personal belongings, including his own car, and disappeared.
During the initial investigation, the family encountered numerous systematic issues with police — namely that law enforcement was slow to respond because they believed Billy left on his own accord. The police left Billy’s parents, Janice and William Smolinski Sr., to comb through thousands of acres of woods and fields alone.
It took many detectives to finally suspect foul play. Then, even once foul play was suspected, Billy’s parents said they struggled to get the right reporting in different databases, and the case information never matched up.
Sadly, the family felt it was evident that this lack of attention, investigative urgency, and detective documentation was a nationwide issue among countless police departments, and they wanted to influence change.
Billy’s family has tried multiple times to get this Billy’s Law passed, and now, they can finally rest assured that they have.
“I hope that other families get a chance to realize that there is hope,” Janice told CT Insider after the bill was passed.
How does this bill help families of the missing?
This bill will help streamline the reporting process for families, and ensure that law enforcement databases are more comprehensive. Some more specific ways this will be implemented are outlined in the bill including:
- Provide or coordinate various free-of-charge forensic services to aid in identifications and case resolutions;
- Investigative support for criminal justice efforts;
- Assistance for family members of the missing, training by coordinating State and local authorities to help support families impacted by the disappearance or loss of their loved one; and,
- NamUs will be involved with facilitating Missing Person Day events throughout the country.
This law also is an amendment to the Crime Control Act of 1990 which will now require missing children reports to be added to NamUs.
This new legislation also requires a plan for information sharing between the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and NamUs within six months of signing into law. This includes:
- A missing person’s case classified as Child Abduction (CA) or Amber Alert (AA) must be added to NamUs within 72 hours of a case being entered to NCIC;
- A missing person’s case classified as Endangered (EME) or Involuntary (EMI) must be added to NamUs within 30 days of being added to NCIC;
- All other missing person cases that are active in NCIC must be added within 180 days;
- Unidentified person cases that are active must be added to NamUs within 60 days of being added to NCIC; and,
- Once these cases have been added, any additional updates will be added to NamUs within 24 hours.
Why does this law matter?
We know there are over 250K unsolved cases of the missing and murdered, and sadly that figure does not include the unidentified. It is estimated that there are 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains throughout the United States.
Recent technological advancements have made solving cases more attainable than ever before. According to Biometrica, while NamUs has always been available to all 50 states, it is only mandated by 12 states to report missing individuals to NamUs, until now.
Earlier this year, the Homicide Victims Families Rights Act was signed into law. Billy’s Law/Help Find the Missing marks the second piece of federal legislation that was passed this year aimed to help families whose loved ones’ cases have gone unsolved. Both of these laws are necessary and a hopeful step forward towards justice for the over 250K unsolved cases of the missing or murdered.
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