Should suspected felons have DNA samples taken?

Bill seeks to get DNA from suspected felons

A bill slated to be introduced in Minnesota on Thursday looks to gather DNA samples from suspected felons before they're potentially convicted. Minnesota has a DNA arrestee law in place once, until the Minnesota Supreme Court struck it down. In 2013, they found DNA arrestee samples do not violate Fourth Amendment rights, and at least one Minnesota senator and two mothers say it's time for Minnesota to reconsider.

Jayann Sepich, a New Mexico mother who lost her daughter, Katie, in 2003 at the hands of a rapist and murderer, is in Minnesota alongside Linda Walker, mother of Dru Sjodin, who was also raped and murdered in 2003. They're both at the Capitol preparing to help introduce Senate File 880.

"After my daughter was murdered, we had DNA evidence, but we couldn't get a match in the database, and I learned it wasn't taken upon arrest in most states," Sepich said. "If we had had this law in New Mexico when my daughter was murdered, we would've identified her murderer in less than 3 months, instead of three years and three months because he was arrested for burglary less than three months after he killed her."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R), seeks DNA collection of suspected felons at booking and is aimed at not only catching repeat offenders sooner, but exonerating the innocent and saving lives. So far, 28 states already have similar DNA arrestee laws in place.

"Other states have made that challenge, have made that fight, and we know that this works, so I think Minnesota is ready to get on board and pass this bill," Sen. Ruud said.

Chuck Samuelson of the Minnesota ACLU says the bill pushes for a violation of privacy stands a strong chance of getting struck down.

"The system doesn't work when you start picking on people when you say well you're being charged with something we really don't like," Samuelson said.

In 2003 though the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the assessment DNA arrestee collection violated Fourth Amendment rights.

"It's no more an invasion of privacy than a fingerprint," Sepich said.

"The DNA that goes into the database is a profile is not your full genome. Your full genome has over three billion markers and only 13 of those markers are put into the DNA database CODIS."

To Sen. Ruud and these two mothers, it's time we all take another look.

"When people hear what this bill is really about and the challenges we've overcome, I think we have a really good chance of passing it in this biennium," Sen. Ruud said.

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