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Kentucky Panel Approves Bill To Collect DNA From Arrests

Kevin Bratcher holds papers at desk during committee meeting.
Legislative Research Commission
Rep. Kevin D. Bratcher, R-Louisville, presents House Bill 3, a bill geared toward juvenile justice reform before the House Judiciary Committee.

Police would collect DNA samples from Kentuckians arrested for felony crimes under legislation that passed a Senate committee Thursday.

The DNA samples would then be sent to the Kentucky State Police crime lab, where they would be uploaded to an FBI database.

Michelle Kuiper, a Louisville woman who was sexually assaulted in 1994, said the proposed policy would have kept her attacker from hurting more women.

“Before the second girl was attacked in 1997, he was brought in for burglary," Kuiper said. "Every time he was let out. But if we would have had DNA at arrests instead of awaiting for convictions, he would have been swabbed for his DNA and he would have matched me.”

Under current Kentucky law, DNA samples are collected from those convicted of felonies.

Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee raised concerns that collecting DNA samples from people who haven’t been convicted of a crime amounts to unreasonable search and seizure.

Sen. Perry Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, asked rhetorically if the next step would be to collect DNA samples from newborns in case they commit crimes in the future.

“Why don’t we take DNA samples from everybody?,” he asked. “These are big, broad-range questions that deal with a lot of our privacy and independence.”

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Maryland v. King that collecting DNA samples is a “legitimate booking procedure” for those charged with a “serious offense.”

The bill the committee approved today would require Kentucky State Police to destroy the DNA record and sample if the arrest or conviction was acquitted, dismissed or nullified.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville and the bill’s sponsor, said it’s only fair for those charged with felonies to submit DNA samples because sexual assault survivors do so through evidence kits.

“On equity, I think there’s a reason we should include this for felony arrestees, particularly when they have a way to get their DNA sample back out of the database,” Westerfield said.

Sen. Ray Jones, a Democrat from Pikeville and the Senate Minority Leader, agreed.

“I don’t see that it’s much of an intrusion to take a Q-Tip and swab someone for DNA when they’ve been arrested,” Jones said.

The committee approved the bill 6-4, with Clark passing on his vote. This is the fourth consecutive year the bill has been proposed in the Senate, which will now consider the legislation.