From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
From the beginning of my legislative career I’ve supported the use of DNA testing as a crime-fighting tool.
It was during my first legislative session as a member of the House of Representatives, back in 2009, when I co-sponsored Act 974.
It requires law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples at the time of arrest for five offenses - capital murder, murder in the first degree, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree and sexual assault in the second degree.
The act is also known as “Juli’s Law.” It was named for Juli Busken of Benton, Arkansas, who was murdered in 1996 in Oklahoma. In her case, a DNA match led the police to her killer.
I co-sponsored an amendment to Juli’s Law in 2011 that adds rape to the list of offenses that call for DNA testing.
In 2013, the practice of testing for DNA was strengthened when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police may collect DNA samples without previously getting a court order.
Then in 2015, after I’d been elected to the Senate, Arkansas passed another critical expansion of the law.
It requires the collecting of DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony offense.
The addition of so many DNA samples to the national data base was so significant that some officials were concerned it might create a backlog at the state crime lab.
Fortunately, that did not happen.
In 2019 the legislature approved Act 839, which requires medical personnel to enter the results of rape kits into a digital tracking system.
This allows law enforcement and crime victims to track the progress of the evidence in the kit, as it is transferred from hospitals to law enforcement agencies and on to the state Crime Lab.
If a prosecutor or a rape victim notices that progress is stalled, they can intervene to find out why.
Another benefit is that even if the case doesn’t go to trial, it builds up more DNA evidence into national data banks.
Now, I’m working to help a task force that is studying the effectiveness of rapid DNA tests.
Some testing equipment can produce results within 90 minutes, but the technology is new and there are some questions about the accuracy of the results.
DNA testing is a vital resource when it comes to catching dangerous and vicious criminals, particularly those who are adept at crossing state lines.
But DNA sampling is not only helpful in criminal investigations, it also helps first responders identify victims of natural disasters.
Also, it’s a technology that will only improve over time.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.