State Rep. Lee Denney hopes to use an interim study to educate lawmakers on the role expanded DNA testing can play in taking criminals off the street and in helping prevent innocent people from being placed behind bars.
For the last several years, Denney has backed measures aimed at forcing people arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples for a law enforcement database.
Current law requires people to submit such samples, but only after they have been convicted. So far, the Cushing Republican has been unsuccessful in her proposals to collect these samples after arrest but before conviction. The samples are obtained through blood or saliva.
This is one of dozens of topics that have been suggested for study during the interim period between legislative sessions. House Speaker Jeff Hickman is to announce later this week which House studies will be conducted.
Denney said prosecutors and police have supported her efforts and about two-dozen states already have such laws, but, so far, Oklahoma legislators concerned about privacy rights have killed her proposals.
Although DNA tests are not routinely performed after arrest in Oklahoma, prosecutors can obtain a DNA sample from a defendant through a search warrant approved by a judge.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there that are repeat offenders,” Denney said. “Right now, DNA is collected from people once they are convicted and incarcerated. If we could capture DNA earlier in the process, we could stop future crimes committed by people who are habitual offenders, and we could exonerate the innocent.”
She said that since there does not appear to be legislative support to collect DNA immediately after arrest, she is considering a revised plan to get the sample after someone is ordered to trial following a preliminary hearing.