Legislation would award grants to states to implement DNA collection for felony arrestees
President Barack Obama signed Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Burbank) legislation, the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6014), into law. Originally introduced in 2010 by Schiff, Katie’s Law bears the name of Katie Sepich, a college student who was raped and murdered in 2003 in New Mexico. Her attacker was arrested several times over subsequent years but was never linked to Katie’s murder, as his DNA was not collected until 2006.
“I’m so pleased that President Obama today signed this important legislation – Katie’s Law is a vital tool for law enforcement to help save lives and prevent future crimes,” said Schiff. “By improving our DNA system, we will make sure that more violent and serious crimes are solved, and we take more felons off the street every year. This legislation – now law – is another tool in law enforcement’s toolkit. Just as we fingerprint arrestees and those convicted of crimes, it makes absolute sense to collect a DNA profile when someone is arrested for a violent felony, and this bill will encourage states around the nation to join California and other states that have adopted arrestee testing.”
“We are so grateful for the support of our primary sponsors, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. David Reichert and Senator Charles Schumer who worked so tirelessly to support this bill and see it enacted,” said Mrs. Sepich.
The Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012, also known as Katie’s Law, establishes a program to provide grants to states which implement DNA collection programs for arrestees of murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, and aggravated assault. States are authorized to collect DNA for a larger subset of crimes but must do so for those felony crimes. The bill uses funding sources within the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Act and specifies that up to $10 million in each fiscal year from 2013 to 2015 may go to grants to states under Katie’s law.
An example of the power of arrestee testing comes from a case in Los Angeles. In 1987, Chester Turner was arrested for assault in California, but freed due to a lack of evidence. DNA technology was in its infancy at the time and Turner’s DNA was not taken upon arrest. Turner continued to terrorize a Los Angeles community and was arrested nineteen more times before being convicted of rape in 2002. Only then was his DNA profile taken, and it matched evidence found on twelve rape and murder victims, the first murdered only two months after his 1987 arrest. Had California taken his DNA when he was first arrested, as is now required under state law, his decades long crime spree could have been prevented or cut short.