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NJ Senator Seeks to Expand State’s DNA Database [AUDIO]

New Jersey already collects DNA samples from violent criminals, but now there’s a push to collect DNA from others too.

George Frey, Getty Images

Do you think police should be allowed to collect samples from people arrested for certain misdemeanors?

State Senators Nick Sacco and Paul Sarlo sponsor a bill that would permit it.

“DNA testing provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and ultimately removing serious offenders from our streets,” says Sacco. “We have a responsibility to act preemptively and collect DNA samples before the individual commits another offense or becomes a fugitive. For the safety of all New Jersey residents, this legislation is the right thing to do.”

The legislation would expand the DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994, which requires a person convicted of an indictable crime to submit to DNA sampling. The bill would add disorderly person’s offenses for which fingerprints are already taken under state law to the list of criminal conduct that requires sampling upon conviction.

Current law requires a person convicted of a crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree to provide a genetic sample for DNA profiling. A person arrested for certain violent crimes is also required to submit a DNA sample under current law.

“Despite modern advancements in forensic science, too many crimes in the United States go unsolved,” says Sarlo. “By expanding the DNA database, we can greatly improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to positively identify the perpetrator and reduce the number of false convictions. This bill will have a significant impact in advancing the timeliness and accuracy of investigations.”

Under the bill, adults and juveniles convicted of, adjudicated delinquent, or found not guilty by reason of insanity of disorderly offenses would be required to provide a biological sample. The sample would be obtained upon imprisonment or, if the person is not sentenced to imprisonment, as a condition of the sentence. Persons imprisoned or on parole or probation for a specified disorderly person’s offense when the law becomes effective also would be required to submit to DNA sampling pursuant to the bill.

After a sample is taken, the Division of State Police identifies, analyzes, and stores it in a state databank. Results of the sample are confidential under state statute. The division also forwards the DNA information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). By electronically comparing DNA profiles in the indexes, analysts can link multiple crimes to a single perpetrator, solve ongoing criminal cases, and exonerate the innocent.

The bill reflects a Supreme Court decision on June 3, 2013, which ruled that the police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes.

In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that the “quick and painless” swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment, and justified as reasonable, given “the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”

The federal government and 28 states currently authorize DNA collection after an arrest. All fifty states require the collection of DNA from people convicted of felonies.

The bill has been approved by the Committee with a vote of 12-0. It now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

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