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How a Colorado drug arrest led to a rape charge

In 1996, Colorado authorities went to work investigating the sexual assault of a female victim. Now, 16 years after the incident took place, officials finally believe that they have the right rape suspect in custody. They attribute the supposed success to the DNA database.

The defendant is 32 years old and was recently arrested on drug charges in Colorado. Though that arrest was not related to any act of sexual violence, it could put the defendant in prison for the rape that police believe he committed those 16 years ago.

When the reported rape was investigated years ago, officials collected a DNA sample from the alleged victim. That sample is in Colorado's database, meaning that samples collected from suspects today and in the future can be compared to those from cases of years passed.

That is how a man charged with a drug crime can face an even bigger threat of a sexual assault conviction. While drug charges can lead to serious sentencing, a rape conviction can lead to even more significant time behind bars, not to mention the requirement to register as a sex offender.

Coloradoans have debated the DNA database and sample collection procedures in recent months. Some lawmakers want to expand the population of criminal suspects from whom authorities can collect DNA to store in the database. Critics of expanding the sample collection worry that doing so would be a violation of people's privacy and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

If the drug-case-turned-rape-case leads to the successful conviction of the defendant, it would not be surprising for proponents of expanding the DNA database to use the case as support for their cause. 

Source: KOAA, "Brutal cold case sex assault possibly solved," Elaine Sheridan, May 31, 2013

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