Colorado

Sep 30, 2010 6:32 PM by David Ortiviz

Police, civil liberties group at odds over DNA law

In Colorado, law enforcement can now collect DNA samples from people who are arrested for a felony. Katie's Law is named after a New Mexico college student who was murdered in 2003. Her parents believe if the killer's DNA had been collected during a previous arrest, he might have been found and punished for Katie's murder sooner.

Colorado is now the 18 state to adopt this law, but it's not without controversy. The debate: Does Katie's Law do a better job of cracking down on repeat criminals. or does it violate your constitutional rights?

On Thursday, Senator John Morse, Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers, 4th Judicial District District Attorney Dan May and other law enforcement leaders showed a united front for Katie's Law.

"Today we're turning up the heat on cold cases," said Sen. Morse.

"I tell you when you look at the history of this, this is a huge day forward in DNA," said May.

Under state law, suspected felons are now required to give a DNA sample when arrested, until now someone had to be convicted of a felony to be forced to give a DNA sample. "This law is to help us apprehend, identify and apprehend more quickly, violent offenders who are repeat offenders," said Chief Myers.

There are roughly 7,500 DNA samples from unsolved crimes in Colorado which have never been matched to a suspect. Colorado Springs Police hope this will help crack cold cases and prevent future crimes.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado thinks the law is too intrusive--after all they say, at the time of arrest, you're presumed innocent. "We believe that that kind of a search of an innocent person violates the constitution," said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado.

District Attorney Dan May says police must have probable cause to take someone's DNA and if later they're found innocent: "If in fact we do not file a felony charge under this law, your DNA will be taken back out of the system," said May.

The law may be in effect, but the legal battle isn't over. The ACLU plans to stand by people who challenge the law in court. "If they want to come forward and talk about the possibility of a legal challenge, we're certainly interested in speaking with them," said Silverstein.

Law enforcement agencies across the state have already been given DNA kits. The samples will be processed by the CBI.

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