ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Federal support for collecting DNA from criminal suspects now just needs President Obama's signature to encourage states to join the program named for a New Mexico murder victim.
Late Friday the Senate approved the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, according to a statement released by Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both D-N.M. The House passed the act two weeks ago, so it now goes to the White House to be signed into law.
Under the bill the Department of Justice may award grants to states covering up to 100 percent of first-year costs for a DNA collection program from suspects arrested or charged with serious crimes.
The law was introduced in 2010 by then Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., whose district includes the Las Cruces area where Sepich was raped and murdered in 2003. She was a student at New Mexico State University.
Her killer, arrested for an unrelated crime, was not identified until three years later when his DNA was taken after his conviction.
The law is under challenge, however, as it forces the collection of DNA from suspects still presumed to be innocent of any crime. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Maryland case where a suspect later linked to a rape claims his constitutional protection against improper search and seizure was violated.
New Mexico has joined in the case filing a brief in support of the state of Maryland's law.
In 2011 the New Mexico Legislature
expanded its Katie's Law to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony but added some civil-rights protections and a method to expunge the record in the suspect is acquitted.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.