- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - DNA collected in any felony case charged as a violent or sex offense will now be preserved through the length of the offender’s sentence, including post-prison community custody, under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Most states have varying laws on how long to preserve biological evidence and Washington was one of several that didn’t automatically preserve DNA for serious felonies. Previously in Washington state, defendants had to file motions post-conviction to have evidence preserved for use during possible appeals.

“It’s a critical step,” the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Tina Orwall, said after the bill signing. She said that this new automatic preservation will enable groups to “go back and investigate and find justice on these cases.”

Lara Zarowsky, policy director for the Innocence Project Northwest at the University of Washington’s Law School, said the new law “makes our job possible.”

Because preservation rules differ across the state, Zarowsky said that frequently, evidence has already been destroyed in cases when they went looking for it.

Zarowsky’s group reviewed about 70 potential cases between 2011 and 2013 and found that in the 25 that would have been viable DNA cases - including murder and rape prosecutions - biological evidence was destroyed in eight cases and lost in one.

Now, in those most serious of cases, there will be a guarantee that DNA evidence will be available for testing if cases are appealed.

“This bill will hopefully result in us being able to find the truth in these cases, and either affirm the original result or identify the actual perpetrator,” Zarowsky said.

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