- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would require DNA collected in any felony case charged as a violent or sex offense to be preserved through the length of the offender’s sentence, including post-prison community custody.

House Bill 1069 passed the chamber on a 47-1 vote, but it heads back to the House - where it first passed in February - because of changes made in a Senate committee.

“The reasons we need this bill is that DNA evidence has the power to vindicate the innocent and convict the guilty,” said Republican Sen. Mike Padden of Spokane, who is chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee that heard the bill.

Most states have varying laws on how long to preserve biological evidence. Washington is one of several that don’t automatically preserve DNA for serious felonies. Under current state law, once convicted, defendants must file motions to have evidence preserved for use during possible appeals.

Under the original bill, in cold cases, where no one has been charged or convicted, the DNA would have to be maintained throughout the statute of limitations for the crime. Law enforcement groups expressed concerns that because some crimes, like murder, have no statute of limitations, they could be on the hook to hold the evidence forever. The changes made in the Senate changes that timeframe for holding the DNA at either 99 years or the statute of limitations, whichever is shorter.

The lone ‘no’ vote was from Democratic Sen. Bob Hasegawa of Seattle, who said he had concerns about the language in the bill that keeps the DNA material after someone is found not guilty, or where charges are dismissed with prejudice, unless that person applies to the Washington State Patrol to have the material expunged.

The bill clarifies that nothing keeps a trial could from ordering destruction of the samples from a defendant who was charged and acquitted, or whose conviction was overturned.

Rep. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Des Moines who sponsored the bill, said she was happy with the changes made in the Senate and will recommend that the House concur with the changes.

“I believe this is a reasonable approach for this ground-breaking legislation,” she wrote in an email.

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