Saturday, March 20, 2010

DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005

“About 8 percent of the people commit about 70 percent of your crimes, so if you can get the majority of that community, you don’t have to do more than that.”---Mitch Morrissey, the Denver district attorney and an advocate for more expansive DNA sampling (NYT, "F.B.I. and States Vastly Expand DNA Databases," 4-18-09)

John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted," recently interviewed President Obama and brought up the topic of giving DNA tests to people when they are arrested. The ACLU is against it, of course; they always defend the rights of criminals, not the victims. They claim they are concerned that DNA testing would invade people's privacy by giving the government information about people's health and genetic tendencies, although law enforcement DNA labs are not set up to do this. There are also very severe legal penalties for misusing DNA information.

I think collecting DNA from people when they are arrested is a good idea, but so far only the Federal Government and a few states give people DNA tests when they are arrested.

After his little son Adam was kidnapped and murdered in 1981, John Walsh became an advocate for child victims of violent crime; still, I don't see how expanding the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) will help most children who are victims of habitual physical or sexual assault. Most children who are habitually victimized by criminals are not killed and know who their torturers are. [Read about the FBI's CODIS site.]

An article by Sarah B. Berson titled Debating DNA Collection in The National Institute of Justice Journal (#264) explains how the Federal Government and some states are implementing new DNA legislation:

The DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 requires that, beginning January 1, 2009, any adult arrested for a federal crime provide a DNA sample.[2] The law also mandates DNA collection from persons detained under the authority of the United States who are not U.S. citizens or are not lawfully in the country.

Even before passage of the act, five states — California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia — had statutes that mandated collecting DNA from people arrested for various qualifying offenses. Although some states limit preconviction DNA collection to violent offenses or sex crimes, other states include all felonies, and some extend the requirement to misdemeanors as well. States' legislation requiring preconviction
DNA collection varies. Variations include the types of crimes for which samples are collected, applicability of the law to juveniles and procedures for deleting profiles. Some state laws have faced Fourth Amendment challenges in court. [Full text]

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