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COLUMBUS State lawmakers pass bill to expand DNA collection



Published: Thu, February 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bill's sponsor wants to represent the Youngstown-Warren area in Congress.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- An Ohio House-passed bill that would expand the list of offenses for which authorities must collect DNA samples from prisoners would be a help to law enforcement and could aid crime prevention, backers say.

& quot;I think it will help us solve past crimes and prevent future ones, & quot; said state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, the Portage County Republican who sponsored the bill.

The Ohio House passed Womer Benjamin's measure 94-0 Wednesday, sending it to the state Senate for consideration.

Generally under current law, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction or jail officials must collect and forward to the state DNA samples from those convicted of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, sexual conduct with a minor, gross sexual imposition or aggravated burglary.

What would be added: Womer Benjamin's bill generally would expand that to include convictions on lesser offenses such as felonious assault, aggravated robbery, robbery or burglary, attempted aggravated murder or attempted murder.

They are additional offenses & quot;which evidence shows often lead to escalating crime, & quot; Womer Benjamin said.

Similarly, the bill would expand the list of offenses for which the state must collect DNA samples from juveniles to those found delinquent of felonious assault, aggravated robbery, robbery, burglary or attempted aggravated murder or attempted murder.

Current law says that DNA samples must be collected from juveniles if they are found delinquent of certain offenses including aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition or aggravated burglary.

Idea behind this: Legislative researchers say the bill could lead to an increased number of matches between the state's DNA database and crime-scene evidence and lead to the successful prosecution of more criminals.

Womer Benjamin has announced she would run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 17th District, which includes the Youngstown area, most of Trumbull County, Portage County and parts of Summit County.




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