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Column: Enhanced DNA collection boosted by U.S. Congress

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Column: Enhanced DNA collection boosted by U.S. Congress
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

The Legislature's focus this session will remain on encouraging job growth and building upon Wisconsin's improving budget outlook, and I am pleased that the governor made these goals his priorities in the recent State of the State address.

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While our attention is on reducing the tax burden on middle-class families, addressing the skills gap and reforming government, a number of other important proposals will be considered over the two-year legislative session.

One of these issues is enhanced DNA collection from those arrested on felony charges, a public safety measure that I have championed in recent legislative sessions.

This effort has gained bipartisan support in Wisconsin and has been implemented in over half the states and by the federal government. I have authored this legislation given the positive results seen in other states that have this law in place, including:

• saving lives by cutting short career criminals that rape and murder,

• saving money by reducing investigation time, prosecution time, and court time,

• exonerating the wrongly accused,

• ensuring a better, streamlined process to collect DNA samples - when doing at the same time as fingerprinting and mug shots, and

• providing relief to victims and their families.

Furthermore, this initiative seeks to protect the rights and privacy of those that are found not guilty or have charges dismissed. A process similar to what is in place for expunging fingerprints is proposed to ensure the information collected can be expunged from the data bank and specimens taken are destroyed.

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General John Van Hollen announced their support for enhanced DNA collection, recognizing the value that utilizing advances in technology will have in saving lives, apprehending criminals, and saving taxpayer dollars.

Van Hollen recently shared an all too common story about a career criminal that avoided sexual assault charges for 10 years due to the lack of enhanced DNA collection in Wisconsin. While the criminal continued his law breaking ways, the victim was left without justice until the offender was finally convicted on a separate felony charge and a DNA sample was collected.

Many of these painful delays in justice can be addressed with the adoption of this measure.

In promising news, the U.S. Congress recently enacted legislation with bipartisan support that provides financial assistance to states that put into place enhanced DNA collection measures. This funding will further aid our efforts to develop a prudent and cost-effective proposal to bring before the state Legislature.

Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, can be reached at 715-232-1390 or sen.harsdorf@legis.state.wi.us.

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