By Priscilla Carlson, STATE BILL COLORADO
An oversight on a Colorado bill that gained national attention a few years ago will be addressed again today.
“Katie’s Law,” originally SB 09-241, was signed into law in March 2009, three years after a college student, Katie Sepich, was brutally raped and murdered in New Mexico. It was DNA evidence on file from a convicted felon that led to the arrest and conviction of her murderer. Katie’s mother, Jayann Sepich, started a national campaign to get other states to follow New Mexico’s example with this legislation. The website www.katieslaw.org reports that so far 21 states, including Colorado, have adopted this law or something similar.
According to the law, anyone arrested for a suspected felony would have to have a DNA sample taken by law enforcement officials, by consent or forcibly. If convicted, that DNA information would go into and remain in a federal database so that if there were any DNA evidence found at future crime scenes, officials could look through this database to see if there was a match.
The Colorado law, SB 09-241, originally sponsored by Sen. John Morse, D-El Paso, was supposed to be amended to state that if the person was not ultimately charged with a felony, if the felony charges were dismissed, or if the suspect was found not guilty of the felony charge, then their DNA records would be expunged.
However, there was an error in the wording, and the actual law that was passed states that DNA records qualify for expungement if the felony charge has been dismissed, was acquitted, or “resulted in a conviction for an offense other than a felony offense described in Title 18, C.R.S.” The law was to take effect on September 30, 2010.
“It was just an oversight,” stated Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo, who introduced the clarification for this bill on Jan. 12. “Since it is so new and we are just starting to implement it, we wanted to make sure it was corrected.” The DNA Expungement Clarification bill, HB 11-1052, states that “the records are expunged if the person is not convicted of any felony, not just a felony under title 18, Colorado Revised Statutes.”
Swerdfeger states that Rep. Mark Waller (R-El Paso) is also sponsoring it, and it has the support of others who Swerdfeger has spoken with. As far as opposition goes, he has not heard of any and does not understand why anyone would oppose this clarification.
The House Judiciary Committee will meet today at 1:30 p.m. to consider the fix.