SANTA FE (KRQE) - The bill that would expand Katie's Law to require all arrested felons to provide a DNA sample to link them to unsolved crimes is headed up to Gov. Susana Martinez.
The House and Senate had approved different versions of the bill, but members from both chambers met in the session's first conference committee on Friday night to strike a compromise.
SB 365, sponsored by Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad, originally called for DNA samples from all arrested felons, but members of the Senate amended the bill that would require a judge to find probable cause and would allow for the expungement of the sample and record for a suspect who was found innocent. The House passed the original version of Katie's Law.
In conference committee, made up of Rep. Al Park, Rep. Bill Rehm, Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, Sen. Vernon Asbill, Sen. Peter Wirth and Sen. John Sapien, lawmakers reached a consensus that would allow DNA collection from all arrested felons upon arrest but those samples would not be analyzed until a judge found probable cause, the defendant failed to appear in court or the arrest was the result of a felony warrant. If the suspect does not meet any of those requirements, the sample would be destroyed.
"I think the bill is important because it does three important things," said Park. "It catches the guilty, exonerates the innocent and protects future victims."
Katie's Law is named after murdered NMSU student Katie Sepich, who was 22 at the time. Her killer was eventually convicted by a DNA match, but law enforcement officials were not able to link the two until years after Katie's death.
"I'm just really happy," said Jayann Sepich, Katie's mother. "what this means is more people who commit heinous crimes will be caught earlier in the process."
SB 365 now heads to Gov. Martinez, who is expected to sign it.
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