Federal lawmakers are using the purse strings to coax more states into adopting rules that require suspects who are arrested for various crimes — but not charged — to submit to DNA sampling for inclusion into a nationwide database.
It doesn’t matter if the suspect was charged or even acquitted.
Sponsored by Harry Teague (D-New Mexico), the measure provides $75 million to the nation’s financially broken states — all in a bid to coax the 11 states with such DNA-testing laws to keep them on the books, and to entice others to follow suit. The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary received the package Wednesday, a day after the House passed the bill on a 357 to 32 vote.
All Democrats voting approved the bill, CNET’s Declan McCullagh points out. And it’s likely to sail through the Senate. President Barack Obama, who supports DNA collection upon arrest, is expected to sign it.
The House’s passage of the so-called “Katie’s Law,” or HR 4614, comes as the states and federal government are slashing budgets in response to record-setting financial shortfalls.
All the while, a civil rights challenge to California’s DNA-collection law is pending in San Francisco federal court, a lawsuit threatening to derail similar laws in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Vermont.
Teague said the package was long overdue.
“The fact is that the science has advanced and we should allow law enforcement to use all the technology available to them, including the fingerprint of the 21st century, to reduce expensive and unjust false convictions, bring closure to victims by solving cold cases, better identify criminals, and keep those who commit violent crime from walking the streets,” he said on the House floor.
A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday no hearing date has been set.
Under the measure, increased federal crime-fighting funding would be available to the states that have DNA-collection programs or doled out to those adopting them.
To receive funding under the measure, states would be required to conduct DNA sampling when an adult is arrested for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, certain sex crimes, kidnapping, burglary, attempted burglary and aggravated assault.
The American Civil Liberties Union has brought the legal challenge to California’s law, which requires compulsory DNA sampling of anybody arrested for a felony. The lawsuit does not challenge sampling of convicted felons.
The ACLU says DNA sampling is different from the compulsory fingerprinting upon arrest that has been standard practice in the United States for decades. A fingerprint reveals a person’s identity. A DNA sample encodes a person’s family ties and some health risks. And, according to some, it can predict a propensity for violence.
California authorities are allowed to conduct so-called “familial searching.” When a genetic sample does not directly match another, authorities start investigating people with closely matched DNA in hopes of finding leads to the perpetrator.
The ACLU’s lawsuit cites the California Department of Justice figures that show that, of the 332,000 people arrested for felonies in 2007, 101,000 were not convicted of any crime.
The Supreme Court has not squarely addressed the constitutionality of the DNA law at issue in the ACLU’s case, according to a congressional study.
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Information, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Privacy | Tagged: American Civil Liberties Union, California Department of Justice, Constitution, Declan McCullagh, DNA, Harry Teagu, HR 4614, Katie’s Law, police state, surveillance, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary |