States to take DNA of people arrested
- States to take DNA of people arrested
More states use it to solve other crimes
BY ROBERT TANNER
June 30, 2006
Hoping to solve and prevent more crimes, the federal government and a
growing number of states are casting the DNA net wider by taking genetic
samples from people accused -- but not convicted -- of breaking the law.
Civil liberties advocates say the practice makes a mockery of being innocent
until proven guilty and could overwhelm already-backlogged crime labs.
All states take DNA from convicted criminals and enter it into databases for
use in solving crimes. But this spring, Kansas and New Mexico passed laws to
start testing those only arrested in crimes, joining California, Louisiana,
Minnesota, Texas and Virginia.
And last year, Congress said it was OK to take DNA from those arrested in
federal offenses -- felonies and misdemeanors -- and foreigners who are
being detained, whether or not they have been charged.
The idea is not new. Britain, with one of the more aggressive DNA database
programs, has done it for years.
"At first, this bothered me that we were undermining criminals' civil rights
-- you are innocent until proven guilty," said Tennessee state Sen. Ron
But "if you're talking about murder, assault and things of that nature, law
enforcement will tell you that lots of times the perpetrator has done this
before. If it does solve the crime, I'll go along with that."
Ramsey, a Republican, wants to expand testing to those arrested in
burglaries and serious violent crimes such as murder, rape or kidnapping.
The new laws let states take genetic samples upon arrest.
Laws in all states but Kansas allow for the DNA record to be removed if the
accused is not convicted, usually upon the request of the person tested,
according to Lisa Hurst, who tracks DNA legislation for the law firm Smith
Alling Lane in Washington.
"Legislators have gotten a lot more comfortable with the concept of DNA,"
Hurst said. "They've gotten a lot more comfortable with what forensic DNA
can do. Everyone sees it on 'CSI' ... and people are surprised that we don't
take DNA from everyone who's arrested."
But critics argue that databases could end up containing the names of people
who were found to be innocent.
"This is absolutely a line that should not be crossed," said Tania
Simoncelli with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is considering a
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