House Passes Rep. Schiff Bill to Award Grants to States to Implement DNA Collection for Felony Arrestees

Washington DC –Today, the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6014), sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), passed the House of Representatives by voice vote. Originally introduced in 2010, 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.

“Katie’s Law is an important step we can take that will save lives. Every improvement we make to our DNA system, means more violent crimes solved and more violent felons taken of the street. It is a smart approach that also has the merit of saving taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Schiff. “Just as we fingerprint arrestees, it makes 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 the 24 other states that have adopted arrestee testing. DNA technology has an unmatched power to identify the guilty and to clear the innocent, and we should use it to its fullest potential. It’s my hope that the Senate will take up and pass this legislation in the remaining days of the session.”

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 arrests. While this new law does not authorize any new funding, it 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.