By BEN HAVENS/Montana State News
A loophole in Montana’s sex offender laws allows those convicted of sex crimes to move from elsewhere into the state without providing law enforcement officials with a DNA sample. The law requires those who are convicted within the state to do so.
State Attorney General Tim Fox has requested Senate Bill 213, which would close the loophole. Forty-seven other states require DNA samples from sex offenders moving into those states. Only Colorado, Idaho, Wisconsin and Montana have this loophole.
DNA samples are used when looking for suspects in crimes. The use of DNA as evidence became popular in the Tommie Lee Andrews case, where Tommy became the first person to be convicted using DNA as evidence in 1987.
At the time no state had DNA data bases. By 1997 every state would have laws requiring sex offenders to have registered DNA samples. In the last decade, DNA evidence has been used in over 6,800 cases across the U.S.
So far the bill has met no opposition and has received support from the Montana County Attorney’s Association, the Police Protection Association and the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula. These organizations and others agree the passage of this bill will increase convictions for guilty suspects and increase exonerations for innocent ones.
With demand for faster processing, DNA storage technology has improved in the last decade. DNA previously required swab storage, but technology now allows for mass storage on cards. This is regarded as especially important since passage of the bill would increase Montana’s DNA database by 2,000 samples initially and 400 additional samples per year.
– Edited by Noah Bostrom