Federal Introduction And State Expansion Of "Katie's Law"

Las Cruces, NM – In New Mexico Katie's Law requires DNA samples to be collected from people arrested in certain felonies including murder, sexual assault and burglary. The legislation was approved in 2006.

The law is named after Katie Sepich, an NMSU student who was raped and murdered in 2003. She was twenty-two. Sepich's killer was caught in 2006, but if the law had already been in place he could have been identified much sooner because of a prior burglary arrest.

Nationally, New Mexico U.S Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall introduced the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act last week. This bill would help other states implement versions of "Katie's Law" and would use about thirty million dollars.

Senator Udall says grants could be awarded to help cover the early costs of implementing DNA collection process.

Udall-"Many states do not even pass these laws especially in these economic times because they don't have the money. We have a grant process through the department of justice and one of the grants is if the state passes one for DNA and other for enhanced DNA. What we are trying to do is stimulate at the national level states to pass legislation. I believe the probable cause standard is a good one and that is what you have in every arrest situation."

Udall also says there is a good amount of bipartisan support for the federal bill and several senators have recently voiced their support of moving it forward.

However in New Mexico, a proposed expansion of the law has become controversial. The proposal calls for a DNA sample to be collected for all felony arrests when the defendant is booked by police. The bill easily passed the House, but the Senate wants two major changes. One holds off on DNA swabbing until a court finds probable cause and the other makes it easier to get an arrest record expunged.

This year's legislative session ends Saturday at noon.