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Idaho police want to test felons for DNA, starting in 2013

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The Idaho State Police (ISP) want to expand mandatory DNA testing to all convicted felons, but doesn't expect to have the money to start collecting and storing DNA until July 2013.

When New Hampshire approved expanded DNA testing last year, it left Idaho alone as the only state to not take DNA samples of felons. The plan proposed by the state police would link Idaho with the national DNA database and could potentially crack unsolved cases.

State Police Maj. Kedrick Wills supported legislation in the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee Wednesday to ramp up testing. Currently, Idaho requires DNA samples for people who are commit sex crimes or violent crimes.

“We're way behind them on DNA database,” said committee chairman Denton Darrington, R-Declo. “We've got to start to work toward that.” The committee voted unanimously to hold a hearing on the plan.

Testing all felons would more than triple the load of ISP's Meridian forensics office to an average of 5,400 DNA samples a year. That increase would require two more forensic scientists to handle the work. ISP estimates there would be $330,000 in startup costs for the plan, then an annual expense of $418,000.

Wills told lawmakers Wednesday that ISP can't handle that added cost in its current budget. He said ISP is hoping to get the funding to start the program in the summer of 2012. It would take a year of upgrades before Idaho would start taking DNA samples from felons.

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, asked Wills whether the expanded testing could help people wrongly convicted get their sentences overturned.

“We do not work in the overturning of convictions, unless we're directed to by a court,” Wills told Bock. But he said the expanded testing would increase the information held by ISP. “The more profiles you have in the database, the more useful the database is for whatever you're trying to do.”

The expanded DNA testing plan now faces a full committee hearing. If it passes the Senate, it would likely then head to the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee, which is led by Wills' father, Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry.

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Every other state takes DNA samples of felons, Every other state takes DNA samples of felons
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