DENVER (AP) More than 100 years after U.S. law enforcement first began using fingerprints to identify suspects and solve crimes, Colorado and 20 other states are now also using or planning to use DNA profiles.
Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to sign a bill Thursday requiring DNA samples from all felony suspects at the time of their arrest, a change from a requirement that only those convicted of felonies submit DNA. The move has raised concerns that expanding the use of DNA is an intrusion of privacy and a potential violation of constitutional rights that could be reversed by the courts.
Supporters such as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who lobbied for the bill, say the move will get habitual offenders off the street faster and prevent crime. Nationwide, thousands of cases, ranging from burglaries to slayings, have been solved with DNA gathered from convicted felons that is entered into a database then compared with DNA collected at a crime scene.
A select analysis of five offender records by Morrissey's office found that three slayings and 18 sexual assaults, along with a host of other violent felonies, could have been prevented in Denver since 1989 if such testing was allowed.
''I do believe expanding the DNA database is the one thing that will cause the resolution of more cold cases,'' Suthers said Wednesday. ''I think across the country it has resulted in significant arrests.''
It's referred to Katie's Law after 22-year-old Katie Sepich, a graduate student at New Mexico State University who was raped and murdered in 2003. Investigators were able to gather her attacker's DNA from skin and blood under her fingernails.
Her attacker was arrested for a felony burglary three months after Sepich's slaying but didn't have to submit DNA. He skipped bail and wasn't tied to the slaying and convicted until three years later.
Sepich's mother, Jayann, began lobbying for a change in law to allow testing at the time of arrest shortly after her daughter's slaying.
''I felt so certain that this man was such a horrible person that he would be arrested for something else,'' said Jayann Sepich, who planned to attend the signing ceremony at the Capitol with Ritter Thursday.
Under Colorado's new law, DNA will be taken from those arrested for felonies through a cheek swab, by reasonable force if necessary, and then sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for testing and entrance to the state database. Those not charged within 90 days can ask for their DNA records to be removed for the database.
As an added protection, Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers added a requirement that the state pay $25,000 to anyone whose DNA record was not expunged upon request. A $2.50 charge will be added to all felony and misdemeanor convictions and traffic tickets to pay for the testing