Getting a DNA profile into the national database CODIS can currently take weeks, depending on the lab, the sample and the case being investigated - meaning significant delays in honing in on the right suspect in serious crimes.

The Rapid DNA Act of 2017, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday, proposes lowering that turnaround rate to 90 minutes or less, directly at booking stations around the country in some situations – potentially speeding up the entire genetic screening process.

But whether the legislation proves to “revolutionize” the American criminal justice system as touted remains to be seen, according to some onlookers.

The bill was introduced in Congress in January. It passed with widespread bipartisan support – first by voice vote in the House of Representatives in May, and then by unanimous consent in the Senate on Aug. 1.

The legislation asks the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue standards and procedures for use of Rapid DNA technology, so the fully automated process can be used by virtually any criminal justice agencies across the U.S. to collect swabs, and upload the DNA samples into CODIS in the future.

By amending the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, the FBI can waive certain existing requirements if a DNA sample is analyzed using Rapid DNA instruments and the results are uploaded into the database, according to the new law.

The law’s sponsors envision a streamlined new DNA investigation environment across the nation that locks up criminals and frees the innocent.

“Rapid DNA is a promising new technology and an effective tool for law enforcement – I’m thrilled to be seeing it signed into law,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc). “This technology will help quickly identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and make crime fighting more efficient while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring.

“It will also save time and taxpayer dollars,” added Sensenbrenner.

The politicians tout that the technology could not only catch criminals – but also clear the wrongfully accused – quicker than ever before.

“This bill will help law enforcement agencies solve crimes faster and help those wrongfully accused to be exonerated from crimes they did not commit – almost instantly,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

But others have cautioned that it still needs to fit within the legal framework. The Innocence Project, which has based most of its wrongful conviction exonerations based on DNA samples, said the technology must first meet all the scientific rigor expected of a new innovation.

“As with any forensic science technique, its application should be limited to those conditions for which it has been validated,” said Paul Cates, a spokesman for the Innocence Project. “Moving forward, we hope that the standards guiding its use are developed through a formal standards development process that assures the participation of both independent scientists and public and private sector forensic scientists.

“Additionally, we believe that criminal justice stakeholders should be consulted to ensure that Rapid DNA technology is applied justly and fairly,” added Cates.

One maker of Rapid DNA technology is the California-based IntegenX. Their RapidHIT ID system was validated in a research paper published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics in January. RapidHIT is intended for cheek swabs of arrestees at booking stations.

A competitor is the Washington-based NetBio, which is marketing a system called DNAscan that received National DNA Index System (NDIS) approval from the FBI last year. (The FBI said, however, that DNAscan’s approval is no longer effective, since the system does not contain the 20 CODIS loci since the expansion at the beginning of this year). That system, which aims to provide STR analysis out in the field, was demonstrated in the Springer journal Investigative Genetics last year.

The FBI’s Rapid DNA Program has sought to accelerate the technology's use since 2010.

But bottlenecks remain, according to some critics. For instance, collection of DNA on arrestees or those simply accused of crimes is not law in most states. Even if the sample is collected or voluntarily given, and a hit is generated, that doesn’t mean the justice system – a cop on-call or a prosecutor paged on the weekend – can capitalize on the head start generated by the technology’s speed.

Rockne Harmon, a retired Alameda County (Calif.) prosecutor and DNA expert, said analysts, detectives and prosecutors already have the capacity to accelerate their DNA speed on cases of interest – but those extra resources can’t be applied on every case.

“If there’s infrastructure in place – which hardly exists anywhere in this country – then this can be a blockbuster,” Harmon said. “If there’s not, then the time it takes for someone to finally figure out it happened and do something about it, the 90 minutes is gone. It’s hours, or days, or weeks – or months – later.

“Lack of a cold-hit tracking system will undermine it,” the former prosecutor added.

Some other critics have voiced concern that contamination or secondary DNA transfer could make decentralization of DNA collection fraught with inaccuracies. In the meantime, some other police agencies may have already gotten a head start in Rapid DNA collection – as has been the case in Miami Beach.

But rape kit testing advocates and other groups and individuals from both sides of the political aisle tout long-term gains if Rapid DNA becomes the standard.

“We’re very excited to see the passage of the Rapid DNA Act of 2017,” said Mai Fernandez, the executive director of the National Center for the Victims of Crime. “Having results for DNA tests while suspects are still in custody should further contribute to the safety of our communities, and ultimately potentially reduce rape kit backlog.”