Schumer Introduces ‘Katie’s Law’
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced “Katie’s Law” on Monday, September 20, a bill that would provide state law enforcement agencies with incentives to require mandatory DNA fingerprinting for anyone who was arrested for a violent crime. Currently, 23 states and the federal government use DNA to identify persons arrested for violent crimes. However, New York is not among them. The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Mark Udall and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Michael Bennett of Colorado, provides financial incentives for states to utilize more sophisticated crime fighting tools to bring to justice killers and violent offenders who, though apprehended, may go undetected for earlier crimes.
“Katie’s Law will provide essential tools for law enforcement to apprehend violent offenders who have been able to escape justice for too long,” said Schumer. “We need to make sure that when we have violent offenders in custody we don’t let them slip away because we were unaware of previous crimes they may have committed.”
The Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, “Katie’s Law,” is named after Katie Sepich, a young woman from New Mexico who was raped and murdered by a man who was caught for another crime just three months after Katie’s murder, but was let go by authorities who did not have any evidence of a connection. Had DNA been obtained from the suspect, he would have been immediately connected to Katie’s murder. Instead, he was released and not brought back into police custody for another three years. Underscoring the importance of Katie’s Law, just yesterday a man arrested in Virginia was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old girl that occurred in New York in 1993, based on DNA evidence that was collected in that state because of a subsequent arrest.
The bill would incentivize states to meet minimum standards for arrestee DNA collection. The minimum standard asks states to collect DNA samples from those arrested for, indicted for, or charged with certain violent felonies and compare these samples with pre-existing records in the national DNA database. States that comply with this minimum standard or implement a stricter enhanced standard will be eligible for additional federal assistance equivalent to the first year costs associated with the improved collection process.
The bill would save taxpayer money by reducing costly investigations associated with false leads. A recent study in Indiana estimated that taxpayers spend over $2,000 per crime for officer response, investigation, prosecution, and adjudication. Catching repeat offenders early will reduce costs over time and save valuable manpower. Additionally, Katie’s Law requires that current federal privacy laws be adhered to.
“This bill would give New York law enforcement better tools to solve violent crimes and provide justice to victims, some who have waited far too long for closure,” added Schumer.