Archive for Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Senate approves compromise DNA bill

May 2, 2006

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— People arrested on felony charges would be required to submit DNA samples that could be used to determine whether they were involved in other crimes under a compromise bill that cleared the Senate.

The 29-11 vote Monday sends the bill to the House, and if it follows suit, the bill will go to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Under the bill, worked out by a House-Senate conference committee, those facing a felony charge of driving while under the influence also must submit a sample, which would be collected by wiping a cotton swab inside the mouth of a person being booked and fingerprinted.

Critics, including Sen. Phil Journey, suggested police officers could arrest a person on trumped up charges just to get a DNA sample.

"This is an unreasonable temptation for abuse of the rights of people," said Journey, R-Haysville. "This bill is without safeguards for liberty."

But Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, noted, "There is no constitutional right for a person accused of a crime to refuse to give identifying information."

The sample would be analyzed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to come up with a DNA profile, which can be built with as few as 20 cells.

Supporters say while the 14 chromosomes used to construct a profile don't contain personal information, they are more than sufficient to make a match with another sample.

If charges are dismissed, a person is acquitted or a conviction is expunged, the person could ask the KBI to destroy the sample, but the DNA record would remain in the database like a fingerprint.

The same request could be made if charges hadn't been filed by the time the statute of limitations had expired on the crime.

But if a sample links a person to another crime, the subsequent charges could stand even if the original charges were dismissed and the sample destroyed.

Supporters say it would help get sexual predators and violent criminals off the street, plus help close unsolved crimes.

However, officials say the bill could result in an additional 12,000 DNA samples each year. California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia already take DNA samples along with fingerprints at the time of arrest.

The legislation expands who must submit to DNA testing.

Currently, DNA samples are required of people convicted of most felonies.

The legislation would expand that to include those arrested on such charges.

The bill would take 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 July 2008, samples would be taken in all felony cases.

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