President signs national version of New Mexico’s Katie’s Law

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President Barack Obama has signed the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012 into law, according to a release out of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office. Katie’s Law will expand efforts at DNA collection from serious criminal offenders in order to save lives, solve crimes and prevent future tragedies from occurring at the hands of repeat offenders.

The bill was named for a New Mexico State University graduate student who was brutally raped and murdered in 2003. Because New Mexico did not collect DNA from felony arrestees at the time, her killer was not identified when he was arrested in 2003 for unrelated crimes. It wasn’t until three years later, after his conviction for other crimes, that his DNA was taken that identified him as Sepich’s killer.

Udall introduced legislation with then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman in March 2011 to create incentives for states to implement programs to collect DNA from individuals arrested or charged with serious crimes.

“Katie’s parents have dedicated their lives to making sure their daughter’s murder resulted in meaningful action,” Udall said. “Today’s bill signing is a credit to their work and determination and means that other states can set up DNA collection programs like New Mexico’s to help catch dangerous criminals and prevent heartbreaking tragedies like Katie’s from happening in the future.”

The goal of the legislation, which was first introduced in 2010 by then-U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, is to encourage states that don’t have arrestee DNA collection processes to implement them. To that end, the legislation would authorize the Department of Justice to award grants to cover up to 100 percent of a state’s first-year cost of implementing a collection program.

This will allow more states to implement DNA arrestee collection programs, which allow law enforcement to compare DNA collected from adults who are arrested or charged with certain serious crimes against the FBI DNA database, known as CODIS. Those crimes include homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary and aggravated assault.

Arrestees who have DNA collected for the federal database may have their records expunged if they are acquitted, their conviction is overturned or the charges against them are dismissed. As a condition of receiving a grant, states must notify individuals who submit DNA samples of the relevant expungement procedures and post the information on a public website.