2 bills expand laws on
sex offenders, DNA tests

State lawmakers have approved two bills to help Hawaii's law enforcement officials by clarifying the state's sex offender registry law and by requiring DNA testing and hand impressions of all convicted felons.

The two bills won unanimous approval Tuesday in the House and the Senate.

The registry law is not meant to punish sex offenders, "but it is the effort to protect the community," said Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa.

The bill amends current law, which requires all sex offenders to register for life.

The new measure requires lifetime registration for the worst sex offenders and automatic online public access to their personal information.

Less serious offenders, however, will have the chance to end their registration and public access to their information on the Internet after a certain period of time.

The DNA bill also expands current law. Versions of the bill have been introduced during the past several years, but this is the first time it is set to pass, said House Judiciary Chairwoman Sylvia Luke (D, Pacific Heights-Punchbowl).

State law now requires only sex and violent offenders to provide DNA samples. The new law would require all convicted felons to submit samples.

The bill allows the samples to also be taken by swabbing the inside of a person's mouth, which is less intrusive than using a needle to draw a blood sample, Luke said.

The bill also includes provisions to help those wrongfully convicted to exonerate themselves, through requiring authorities to retain evidence left at the scene of crimes, she said.

"It is really a step in the right direction. ... We can use the similar technology to convict the people who need to be convicted and exonerate the innocent," Luke said.

Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head), who has fought for the bill for several years, said it is overdue.

"It's about time Hawaii joined the 21st century," she said.

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