AG Ferguson announces DNA collection from thousands of violent offenders

For years, thousands of convicts in Washington were getting away without a critical step in their post-conviction legal process. Attorney General Bob Ferguson says his office set out to change that.

Washington law requires people convicted of violent crimes and sex offenses to submit their DNA to a national database that can be accessed by law enforcement everywhere.

AG Ferguson says this database has helped solve open and cold cases across the country, but that critical DNA collection wasn't happening in Washington.

Charisa Nicholas survived an assault over a decade ago, and she says if DNA collection had been in place, it never would have happened to her.

"We were awakened in the middle of the night by a gunman that held us hostage for hours and the unthinkable unfolded that night," Nicholas said.

More than 10 years later, AG Ferguson is working to fix that DNA collection process. He says it wasn't a process at all in some counties.

"I remember having a conversation with my team when we realized there's thousands of individuals across the state who have not provided the DNA and that was a question, where do we even start? And I decided, let's start with the most serious offenders. That's why we literally started with sexually violent predators," Ferguson said.

Ferguson set out to make that change five years ago, and since then, they've collected more than 2,600 samples, which have led to 97 matches to other crimes.


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"These are folks who have been convicted of, for example, sex crimes, violent felonies, these are serious offenses. And so we've been painstakingly going through the information to determine who owes this DNA and that's a labor intensive process. You can imagine there's no list out there that provides it," Ferguson said.

The process involves tracking down each ex-con that's not in the system, combing through court documents, and matching names with existing samples.

If a violent offender is alive and still in Washington, Ferguson says they're getting that "lawfully owed" DNA.

It's unknown what the stopping point will be, as the AG said there's no list to go on.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has spoken out about DNA collection like this, saying it's an overreach and discloses detailed genetic information.


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