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Bill would widen DNA tests

Lawmaker wants samples taken from felony suspects

TACOMA – Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, says he plans to introduce a bill in the 2009 Legislature that will put the state on the same page with the federal government on the subject of DNA testing.

In January, federal authorities will start collecting DNA samples from everyone they arrest on felony charges.

“It’s going to solve crimes,” Miloscia said. “If you ever commit a crime, your (DNA) markers are in the computer.”

Miloscia sponsored a state bill in 2005 that was much like the new federal law that will take effect Jan. 9. The 2009 Washington Legislature gets under way Jan. 12.

“We take their fingerprints, their pictures and their address when they are arrested,” Miloscia said. “What’s wrong with taking their DNA? We would throw their DNA away if they aren’t convicted. It’s not something you can abuse in any way.”

In 2005, Miloscia’s proposal said the DNA for arrested felons would be destroyed if charges were dropped or if they were acquitted, and their markers would be removed from the state database maintained by the Washington State Patrol.

Currently, Washington law requires collection of DNA samples only from criminals who are convicted, not just arrested, of felony crimes.

DNA collection is required for a smattering of lesser offenses, too, generally if they are crimes of a sexual nature. But again, those samples are taken only after conviction.

Miloscia’s 2005 bill never got beyond a public hearing in a House committee, and Miloscia acknowledged his bill’s 2009 prospects were not good because of its economic implications since state lawmakers face an estimated $5.7 billion budget deficit.

But he said he believes a majority of the Legislature’s members will see things his way once the state’s budget problems are behind them.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said cost isn’t the only reason Miloscia’s bill should not be passed into law, though. He thinks it intrudes too much on individual privacy.

“This is a close question,” Kline said. “It’s not an obvious slam-dunk. The public has an interest on both sides of this question – in catching the bad guys and in protecting the privacy of the good guys.”

According to Kline, Washington draws the line at convictions, rather than arrests, because of the presumption of innocence until proved guilty.

Kline said the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs wants to see the line drawn at arrests, while the American Civil Liberties Union wants to hold the line at convictions.

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