Bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 6366, introduced on Friday in the Washington State Senate will allow DNA testing upon arraignment for certain crimes against a person, which can include murder, rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, assault, and burglary.
“DNA has been used to help solve crimes and exonerate the innocent since the technology and science became more available within the criminal justice system during the late-1980s,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, and the prime sponsor of the bill. “Our state now has the option to use science to identify perpetrators of violent crimes, help protect women and children from becoming victims of violent crime, exonerate the innocent, solve cold cases, and offer justice to survivors.”
Under the proposal, adults who have been lawfully arrested for crimes against a person, will have their DNA collected upon arrest by the city or county jail as a part of the booking process. The DNA sample will not be analyzed or uploaded into the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) until charges are read and confirmed by the court. Only after arraignment will the sample be sent to the forensic lab to be analyzed against DNA evidence found at crime scenes. If there are no charges filed by the court, the DNA sample must be immediately destroyed and notice given to the person and their defense counsel that this has been completed.
“DNA testing and technology has greatly improved law enforcement’s ability to protect people in recent decades. It’s important for the Legislature to ensure state law enables investigators to best utilize that information,” said Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, co-sponsor of the legislation. “DNA samples must also be used responsibly respecting people’s right to privacy – this legislation recognizes that important balance.”
Currently, 30 states in the U.S. have already passed legislation approving DNA collection upon arrest.
The United States Supreme Court weighed in on this issue in June 2013 in its ruling of Maryland v King. The majority opinion states that “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
As of August 2014, CODIS had produced nearly 260,000 DNA matches, assisting in more than 250,000 investigations nationwide.
The bill will be heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in Senate Hearing Room 4.