Katie’s law expansion has bipartisan support but faces court challenges

by jeeg 9. February 2011 23:04

A law that would require DNA to be taken from all individuals arrested for felonies, one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s legislative priorities, has wide bipartisan support and will likely land on the governor’s desk for her signature. But after the bill is passed it will face court challenges from civil liberties groups that say the law with the tenet of being innocent until proven guilty.

The bill would expand an existing law, named Katie’s Law, that currently requires DNA to be taken for arrests in violent felonies. Twelve states mandate the taking of DNA from those arrested for all felonies, and a number of others, including New Mexico, mandate it for certain felonies.

State Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad, who is carrying the legislation in the Senate along with Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, says that 37 of the 42 Senators have signed on to support the law.

Martinez held a press conference yesterday with legislators from both parties in support of the bill.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico told the Santa Fe Reporter that it doubts the constitutionality of the legislation.

“It takes a foundational legal principle, innocent until proven guilty, and turns it on its head,” ACLU-New Mexico Communications Specialist Micah McCoy tells SFR. “DNA is more than a fingerprint. DNA contains your entire code; DNA is you: This is your entire genetic information that they are seizing from people, many of whom are presumably innocent.”

The ACLU sued against a similar law in California, and that lawsuit may be on track to reach the Supreme Court.

Katie’s Law is named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was attacked, raped and murdered in 2003. Sepich’s mother, Jayann Sepich, asked Martinez for the expansion of the law.

Matthew Reichbach, New Mexico Independent


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