Coloradans convicted of a misdemeanor offense may have to submit to mandatory DNA swabs if the bill, being heard Thursday in a House committee, passes.
"It really is the 21st century fingerprint, and we know that we can be more accurate and more effective, better at solving crimes when we're using DNA," said the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) during a press conference.
At its best, House Bill 1251 has the potential to help solve cold cases, exonerate people who've been wrongfully convicted of crimes and help subdue future crimes.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado says it also comes at a cost.
"This encroaches on an individual's privacy," Denise Maes told The Denver Post. "Listen carefully to the rationale supporting this bill: 'Collecting DNA helps solve crime.' There is no end to this mission. One may facetiously say 'just chip us at birth,' but in reality this is precisely where the rationale of the proponents naturally leads us to."
Colorado already has a law in place -- a version of Katie's Law -- that require anyone charged with a felony or misdemeanor sexual offenses to submit to DNA swabbing, but this bill would expand that rule to anyone with convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to submitting to the swab, they would have to pay $128 to cover the costs of the sample which will be stored in a secure vault at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's headquarters. If an individual is later exonerated of a crime, they can request that the sample be destroyed.
Katie's Law is named for Katie Sepich, a 22-year-old who was found raped and brutally murdered in New Mexico in 2003. Authorities were able to draw out a full DNA profile from evidence collected under Sepich's fingernails, the profile wasn't matched to her killer until 2006 -- even though he had been arrested for unrelated crimes three years earlier.
In the past three years in Colorado, there have been at least two well-known cases of exoneration by DNA evidence. Tim Masters spent almost 10 years in prison for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick and was exonerated when DNA found her body pointed to someone else. Roberty Dewey spent 16 years in prison for the 1994 rape and murder of Jacie Taylor before being exonerated by DNA evidence just last year.