House passes bill to expand DNA testing

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By Associated Press

SANTA FE — A proposal to expand DNA testing to those arrested for any felony passed the House Tuesday.
The legislation is a key piece of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s legislative agenda.
A 2006 state law requires DNA samples of those arrested of certain violent felonies, such as murder, kidnapping and sex offenses.
The legislation will expand what’s called “Katie’s Law” in memory of Kathryn Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was raped and murdered in 2003.
Sepich’s killer was identified more than three years later with DNA evidence after he was convicted of another crime.
Martinez was district attorney in Las Cruces when the murder happened.
The bill passed the House on a 55-13 vote and was sent to the Senate, where a similar proposal is pending.
Under the measure, suspects 18 and older will have to provide DNA samples — from a cheek swab, for example — when they’re booked at jails for any felony.
Supporters said the expanded testing can help prevent crimes.
A dozen states, including Virginia and California, require DNA samples of all those arrested for felonies.
But opponents contend the testing violates a person’s right to privacy and could cause police to make arrests on a pretext to obtain a DNA sample.
But supporters disagreed, likening the tests to fingerprints taken when a person is arrested.
But if the legislation is enacted, opponents said, lawmakers probably will try to expand DNA testing to even more people in the future.