Topeka Despite opposition and delays, the Senate gave first-round approval to legislation requiring people arrested on felony charges to submit DNA samples that could be used to determine whether they were involved in other crimes.
The voice vote Wednesday puts the bill in position for a final vote today. If it clears the Senate, the bill will be returned to the House, with the final version most likely worked out by a negotiating committee from both chambers.
Much of the opposition centered on privacy issues and whether DNA samples could be misused.
Supporters said the DNA would be used only for identification purposes, prompting Sen. Phil Journey to say, "The next step is to gather DNA information for the purposes of driver's license renewal and at birth."
Under the bill, a DNA sample would be collected by wiping a cotton swab inside the mouth of a person being booked and fingerprinted. The sample would be analyzed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to come up with a 13-point genetic test, although the sample could yield more personal information.
As it came the Senate, the bill said if a person is acquitted or charges dropped, he or she could request the sample be destroyed and genetic information removed the KBI database. But if the person never is charged, the sample would remain with the KBI.
That troubled Sen. Kay O'Connor, so she had the Senate stand idle for nearly an hour while she had an amendment drafted that was adopted.
"Having these DNA sample laying around in some storage place is a temptation to do something you shouldn't," said O'Connor, R-Olathe. "Those DNA samples are a lot of private information laying around to be abused."
Her amendment requires that DNA samples be destroyed if the person makes the request after being acquitted or charges dropped, or five years after arrest if no charges are filed. But Journey said the problem is that the amendment doesn't require the 13-point test be deleted from the database.
"In some ways it makes the bill worse, because the DNA record of people found not guilty or whose charges are dismissed or never charged are never removed from the DNA database," he said. "Without the amendment, the database could have been expunged."
Supporters say it would help get sexual predators and violent criminals off the street, plus help close unsolved crimes.
The bill takes effect in January 2007 to give the KBI time to get the laboratory equipment needed for the swab samples. Most DNA testing by the KBI is done from blood samples.
In the first year, it would apply to adults arrested and juveniles taken into custody for violent felonies such as rape or murder. Starting in 2008, samples would be taken in all felony cases.
Virginia, Louisiana, California, Florida and Texas already have laws requiring the taking of DNA samples along with fingerprints at the time of arrest.