Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/02/2003 01:53 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
               CSHB  49(JUD)-EXPAND DNA DATABASE                                                                            
CHAIR SEEKINS announced CSHB 49(JUD) to be up for consideration.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TOM  ANDERSON,  sponsor   of  HB  49,  said  that                                                               
collection  and   examination  of  DNA   is  the  next   step  in                                                               
technological  advancement in  the  art and  science of  criminal                                                               
investigations.  Forensic  DNA  typing  has   made  a  broad  and                                                               
positive  impact  on the  criminal  justice  system in  terms  of                                                               
solving crimes  and innocent people  have been freed  both before                                                               
trial  and after  incarceration  due  to this.  HB  49 will  make                                                               
police  investigation more  efficient and  more accurate  helping                                                               
both  law  enforcement and  crime  victims  and will  expand  the                                                               
Alaska state database of DNA  samples to include all persons with                                                               
a felony  conviction under Alaska  law and  juveniles adjudicated                                                               
as a  delinquent for  these same  offenses. There  are provisions                                                               
for volunteer  and anonymous donations.  Persons who  register as                                                               
sex offenders  are also required  to submit DNA samples  into the                                                               
database.  It   will  require  offenders  and   minors  currently                                                               
incarcerated   or  on   state   supervised   parole  for   felony                                                               
convictions or  certain sexual misdemeanor offenses  to provide a                                                               
sample to the Department of  Public Safety. The collection of DNA                                                               
will be  in line with  the collection of fingerprints,  which are                                                               
currently collected  at an arrest  or, in some cases,  during the                                                               
process of applying for a job.                                                                                                  
SENATOR OGAN  asked if  the law  could collect  a sample  from an                                                               
unknown person.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  replied that  wasn't the intent  and the                                                               
Department of Law could clarify that.                                                                                           
SENATOR  FRENCH  said it  should  be  made  clear that  they  are                                                               
talking about a  plane wreck or an arson case  when a house burns                                                               
down and you're not sure who's in or who's out.                                                                                 
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if the bill needs a findings section.                                                                  
SENATOR ANDERSON  replied that  he didn't think  that was  in the                                                               
original, but was added in later.                                                                                               
SENATOR ELLIS said  he has concerns about  privacy issues because                                                               
DNA is an  even more powerful identifier  than fingerprinting. It                                                               
also  identifies   everybody  else  in  the   bloodline  of  that                                                               
individual. Some  time in the  future they might  find themselves                                                               
passing  laws  to  keep  health   insurance  companies  from  not                                                               
excluding all  people with a  genetic predisposition  for certain                                                               
diseases. Significant safeguards should be  in place for it to be                                                               
used for good and not for other purposes.                                                                                       
Page  3,  line  27,  says  "law  enforcement  purposes  including                                                               
criminal investigation  prosecutions" and he thought  it would be                                                               
okay  to just  read "criminal  investigations and  prosecutions".                                                               
"Law enforcement purposes" was a  very subjective phrase and open                                                               
to just anything.                                                                                                               
Another  concern he  has is  with keeping  the sample  of genetic                                                               
material after  everything has been processed  because someday we                                                               
will regret not being more careful about this subject.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON responded  that  he understands  Senator                                                               
Ellis's concern  and that page  2, section  4, has a  new section                                                               
about  unlawful  use  of  DNA   samples,  which  addresses  those                                                               
concerns. Page 2, line 25, says  that unlawful use of DNA samples                                                               
is a Class C felony.                                                                                                            
TAPE 03-34, SIDE B                                                                                                            
2:48 p.m.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH  said he  thinks they should  hear from  the crime                                                               
lab folks before they decide  anything. Everyone agreed that they                                                               
would eventually  have to  protect the use  of DNA  for insurance                                                               
and other purposes.                                                                                                             
MR.   CHRIS   BEHEIM,   Director,  Scientific   Crime   Detection                                                               
Laboratory,  prepared  a  handout   to  explain  the  history  of                                                               
biological testing  at the state  crime lab. In 1987,  they first                                                               
started  doing blood  type testing  and  in 1992,  they added  DQ                                                               
Alpha, the  first DNA  testing marker.  They used  it first  on a                                                               
homicide  in  Fairbanks and  were  able  to eliminate  the  first                                                               
suspect. They  found the killer  by testing blood that  was found                                                               
in his watchband.                                                                                                               
In 1996, they  added another DNA marker, known  as the polymarker                                                               
technique,   which  eliminated   about   99.9   percent  of   the                                                               
population. The  big breakthrough came  in 1999, when  STR (short                                                               
tandem repeat)  typing became available, which  involves analysis                                                               
of 13  different markers on the  DNA molecule. In 1997,  all labs                                                               
began using  this one  technique so  they could  create databases                                                               
and  exchange information.  Prior to  that time,  there wasn't  a                                                               
consistent technology.                                                                                                          
The mechanism that allows them  to store and compare DNA profiles                                                               
is  known  as CODIS  (combined  DNA  index  system), which  is  a                                                               
software package  the FBI  provides to  laboratories at  no cost.                                                               
CODIS  has two  indexes -  the Convicted  Offender Index  and the                                                               
Forensic  Index,   which  contains   crime  scene   evidence  DNA                                                               
profiles. There  is no personally identifying  information in the                                                               
database that  is uploaded into CODIS.  If there is a  hit on the                                                               
database, they have  to go to another database to  find out where                                                               
the sample came from.                                                                                                           
The primary  purpose of CODIS is  to identify suspects and  it is                                                               
done  by  searching  and comparing  the  convicted  offender  DNA                                                               
database  against  the  forensic  database.  Law  enforcement  is                                                               
notified if  a match occurs  and they determine  the significance                                                               
of it.                                                                                                                          
SENATOR OGAN asked why they have to retain the DNA material.                                                                    
MR. BEHEIM explained that it  is primarily for quality assurance.                                                               
When  they achieve  a match  in the  database, they  go back  and                                                               
retrieve the  original sample  and retype it  to make  sure there                                                               
hasn't been  any sample  switching. Contract  labs are  used, but                                                               
they  deal with  thousands  and thousands  of  samples. When  law                                                               
enforcement is  notified, they want  an additional sample  to use                                                               
in any legal proceedings.                                                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH said he could  see his concern about future misuse                                                               
of the  sample and  keeping a sample  here, at  least, guarantees                                                               
that the evidence being used is from the right person.                                                                          
MR.  BEHEIM  said  currently  they  have  about  3,200  convicted                                                               
offender  profiles in  the  database and  DNA  profiles from  165                                                               
unsolved crimes (17 homicides, 91  sexual assaults, 48 burglaries                                                               
and 9  miscellaneous). The database has  helped enormously. Since                                                               
April 30,  they have had  30 hits in  the database; 15  hits have                                                               
matched unsolved  crimes to specific  convicted offenders;  15 of                                                               
them have linked  cases together showing the  same perpetrator is                                                               
Currently,  Alaska's   DNA  database  law  is   very  weak;  only                                                               
Connecticut's is weaker. When Oregon  expanded their DNA database                                                               
to collect  from all felons, their  hits went up 400  percent. If                                                               
we can have  a similar success rate, many crimes  will be cleared                                                               
up. We are  hampered now because our law is  not retroactive, but                                                               
40 other states  do have retroactive DNA laws.  Under Alaska law,                                                               
you can't  compare a sample for  a crime unless it  was committed                                                               
after 1996.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS held CSHB 49(JUD) for further work.                                                                               

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