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States to take DNA of people arrested

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  • Charles C. Primas
    States to take DNA of people arrested More states use it to solve other crimes BY ROBERT TANNER ASSOCIATED PRESS June 30, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2006
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      States to take DNA of people arrested
      More states use it to solve other crimes

      BY ROBERT TANNER
      ASSOCIATED PRESS

      June 30, 2006

      http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060630/NEWS07/606300327/10
      09/NEWS07

      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
      Ramsey.

      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
      legal challenge.


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