For Maggie Zingman, the scenario is clear, although still just a hope.
A man is arrested on criminal charges in Oklahoma and booked into jail. Officers swab the inside of his cheek, and a DNA profile extracted from the swab is submitted to a DNA database.
Later, authorities order a routine check to compare DNA evidence from a 2004 rape and homicide to profiles in the DNA database. And this time they get a hit: The man booked into jail becomes the prime suspect in the unsolved rape and killing of 18-year-old Brittany Phillips, Zingman's daughter.
“I won't stop,” said Zingman, referring to her efforts to catch her daughter's killer and to advocate for expanding DNA collection. “The sooner we can change these laws, the sooner parents won't have to go through what I've gone through.”
Zingman, 58, a psychologist, has been on a crusade for years to have Oklahoma require that DNA be collected from suspects at the time of arrest, not just conviction, for certain crimes. Now the possibility that the state Legislature will pass such a law may be greater than ever, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld collection of DNA from arrestees.
However, the proposal, which was introduced but not voted on in the last regular state legislative session, still faces two major hurdles.
One is opposition from civil rights groups worried that expanded DNA collection will violate the privacy rights of people who haven't been convicted of any crime.
Legal challenges to DNA collection from arrestees continue, including a major case in California.
The second issue is cost. Oklahoma already faces a backlog in processing DNA from crime scenes and convicted offenders, with authorities relying heavily on federal funding to process samples.
It's unclear how collection of additional DNA samples from arrestees would be paid for.
More than two dozen states have approved the gathering of “arrestee DNA” under varying rules, including Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and New Mexico.
Oklahoma collects a small number of DNA samples from arrestees who are in the country illegally.
The Oklahoma bill proposes to expand DNA collection to those arrested on suspicion of committing felonies or 18 misdemeanor crimes. DNA would be collected at the initial court appearance.
“The legislation passed committee, and when it was brought to the floor, I had several people who questioned whether or not it was constitutional,” said the bill's author, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the legality of a Maryland law that allows DNA to be collected upon arrest, rejecting the argument that swabbing constitutes an illegal search. The decision opens the door to more widespread collection of arrestees' DNA.
Jolley said he plans to push for his legislation again in the 2014 session.
Oklahoma first established a DNA database in the mid-1990s, entering the profiles of criminals convicted of the most violent offenses.
In 2006, a law took effect that expanded collection to incarcerated and newly convicted felons.
Since 2009, collection has been expanded to include those convicted of various misdemeanors, including domestic abuse, resisting arrest, lower-level drug possession and DUIs that result in personal injury.
DNA database matches have aided 1,431 Oklahoma investigations so far, according to FBI records updated in September.