Colorado's controversial 'Katie's Law' appears to be paying off. Since the new DNA collection policies started last September, dozens of criminals are behind bars.
Law enforcement is saying this is only the beginning, but defense lawyers are still calling it an invasion of your privacy.
It used to be that you had to be convicted before you gave DNA to the state's database. But with 'Katie's Law,' cops only need probable cause to force you to give a sample.
Over the last four months, authorities have added almost 10,000 samples to the state's database with 40 hits on previously unsolved cases. "Old crimes are being solved and newer crimes are being prevented," Dave Linnertz with the Grand Junction office of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said.
Looking at the statistics, Linnertz said most of those links have come out of the Front Range. But one sexual assault case is seeing light locally in Grand Junction. "I don't think by definition that you would say it was a cold case, but it's certainly several years old," he said.
Defense lawyers understand the reason for the law, but that doesn't mean they agree with it. They are worried about the invasion of privacy and the innocent until proven guilty mentality. But, they are also concerned that law enforcement might actually abuse the law.
"If a law enforcement officer is trying to investigate somebody and they cannot get their DNA, they'll then go through the process of arresting them, getting their DNA, and then use that in their other investigation," Ryan Esplin with the Law Offices of James Giese said.
Esplin says most people arrested for a felony are rarely charged or convicted of the crime, but they still have to surrender their DNA. "There's that period of time when the DNA will still be active and still be able to be processed and tested and so on."
But, why should your DNA being on file matter if you have nothing to hide? We asked Gordon Gallagher, another Grand Junction defense attorney. "To me, it's just like a police officer searching your home without a warrant," he said. "I'm not going to let these cops just walk through my home. They have no right."
Gallagher says having a DNA database makes the most sense because they are more accurate. But, he says it shouldn't be used as a tool to convict people before they've had their day in court. "If the charges are dropped or lowered, there's a whole process someone has to go through to get their DNA removed from the database," he said. "It's a long process with a lot of paperwork involved."
Even though the new law has helped move 40 cases forward statewide, both Gallagher and Esplin say it should be taken off the books. They believe the state had a great tool the way it was before. "Look, if you're convicted of a felony offense, at that point, collect the DNA," Esplin said. "But not prior to it. This is a bit premature."
While they don't agree with the law, it is becoming favorable among politicians. Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton hopes to spread the law nationwide. The federal version of 'Katie?s Law' will likely be introduced in the U.S. House next week.