Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) introduced the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act to make "Katie's Law" the national standard. The legislation will encourage states to maximize the potential of forensic DNA to solve and prevent violent crimes by collecting a DNA sample upon arrest at the same time as fingerprints -- for certain felony crimes.
This bipartisan bill is named after Katie Sepich from Carlsbad, New Mexico, who was 22 years old when she was brutally raped and murdered in Las Cruces, New Mexico. If New Mexico had at that time required a DNA sample to be taken upon arrest, Katie's killer would have been caught three months after the murder when the murderer was arrested for another predatory crime. Instead, the killer was released back onto the streets; it was three long years before he was finally apprehended again and linked to Katie's murder.
"Katie's Law will give local law enforcement the DNA technology they need to hasten the criminal investigation process, helping to identify dangerous criminals and take them off the streets to prevent the kind of tragedies and pain that the Sepich family endured," Rep. Schiff said. "The legislation will help keep our communities safe by solving cold cases, and will give some closure to the families of victims nationwide."
"The abuse of another human being and the taking of human life are unthinkable tragedies," Reichert said. "DNA science -- its collection and analysis -- is vital to the criminal investigation process, and this bill will provide a critical resource to aid our law enforcement officials in investigating and prosecuting crimes, protecting the innocent, and preventing the violent crimes that tragically impacts families' lives."
Twenty-four states, including California, have now adopted DNA collection upon arrest or indictment for at least some violent felonies, and doing so increases the power of the national database to solve crimes. The bonus in federal law enforcement grants provided by Katie's Law will encourage additional states to adopt an arrestee testing law.
The Congressmen worked with Katie's parents, Jayann and David Sepich of Carlsbad, New Mexico, to develop this national law.
"I am grateful for the leadership and support of Congressmen Schiff and Reichert," said Jayann Sepich, Katie's mother. "I have focused my advocacy on trying to ensure that no parent experiences the pain we felt losing Katie, and the passage of this bill will help make that a reality."
This Katie's Law legislation will provide incentives to states to employ the most sophisticated crime fighting tools available to fight violent crime, save lives, and bring killers to justice. This legislation will:
Incentivize states to meet minimum standards for arrestee DNA collection. The minimum standard asks states to collect DNA samples from those arrested for, indicted for, or charged with certain violent felonies and compare these samples with existing records in the national DNA database to determine if they match an unsolved case;
Incentivize states to meet enhanced arrestee DNA standards by collecting DNA from those arrested for certain crimes and submit the samples for inclusion in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS);
Apply current federal law to ensure that any DNA profile of an arrestee that is not convicted is expunged;
Reduce the wasteful spending associated with the costly investigation of false leads. A study in Indiana estimated that taxpayers spend over $2,000 per crime for officer response, investigation, prosecution, and adjudication. Catching repeat offenders early will reduce costs over time;
Protect the privacy of arrestees. Information obtained from a DNA sample and submitted to national DNA databases only contains 13 to 15 numeric indicators. These numbers are not connected to a name or criminal history and do not indicate broader identifying factors like race, medical history, or predisposition to disease; and
Protect the innocent. Katie's Law is one of the only ways to definitively link killers and rapists to their heinous crimes. By definitively identifying the perpetrators, Katie's Law statutes have frequently led to the exoneration of innocent men and women who would have otherwise spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Senator John Kyle (R-AZ), and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).