In January 2016, State Sen. Bob Hilkemann of Omaha, Nebraska introduced a bill that should help speed up arrests in many criminal investigations thereby saving thousands of dollars in investigative expenses according to the senator. On the other hand, he argued, someone wrongly arrested or convicted of a crime could also be cleared more quickly if the real perpetrator is found.
Hilkemann’s personal interest in the bill is based on the murder case of his second cousin, where an arrest was only made several years later.
Under Legislative Bill 1054, anyone arrested on suspicion on certain felony crimes in Nebraska would be required to submit a DNA sample to the law enforcement database. This DNA sample could then be compared with DNA evidence collected in other crimes. At the moment, such DNA samples are only required in Nebraska after a suspect is convicted. Performing DNA tests at the time of an arrest could help prevent other crimes, Hilkemann argued, adding that already 28 states require DNA collection upon arrest, including the neighboring states Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.
“It helps law enforcement move into the 21st century,” the senator said. “It will give them one more tool to make Nebraska safer.”
Opposed to the bill is State Sen. Ernie Chamers of Omaha, Nebraska. He thinks this bill would give police unreasonable powers to arrest people just to get their DNA. He cited an incident from 2004, when several black men were asked to voluntarily give their DNA to investigate a series of rapes without a reasonable suspicion. Some were threatened if they did not comply. In the end no arrest has been made in those cases.
In such cases of charges being dropped, a former suspect must apply to get their DNA purged from the law enforcement database under LB 1054. In other states such as Maryland, a person’s DNA is automatically expunged if they are not convicted. Why automatic DNA expungement is crucial is explained here.
Nebraska could get financial help to expand its DNA collection efforts from the federal Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act. The act, named after a rape and murder victim, provides grants for states to expand their programs.
Nebraska is part of the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), in which states collect and share DNA results.