A state representative wants to require that DNA samples be taken from anyone charged with a felony in Missouri, but the ACLU thinks that goes too far.
“Right now of course when you go in you get fingerprinted and that goes into a database but if we could collect DNA from at least certain kinds of crimes we could solve a lot of cold cases out there,”
Representative Linda Black (R-Park Hills) told Missourinet. “It’s estimated that on day one there could be up to 1,000 murders solved right then and there.”
Black said in her mind the collection is the next logical step after talking someone’s fingerprints.
“They’re both identifying factors of human characteristics. Your fingerprint is individual, so is your DNA, so it’s no different in my opinion,” said Black.
Director of Policy at ACLU Missouri Sarah Rossi says the idea goes too far and would invade people’s privacy – two reasons why the ACLU would oppose it.
“Just because you’re charged doesn’t mean you’re guilty and just because you’re charged with a felony doesn’t mean it’s a violent felony that would necessarily require DNA evidence. It might be a financial crime that’s a felony,” said Rossi.
Missouri law was updated in 2009 with the passage of “Katie’s Law,” requiring DNA samples to be taken from those arrested for certain felonies, including murders, assaults, rapes, and burglaries. That change was also opposed by the ACLU during the legislative process.
State law allows an individual to petition a court to have his or her DNA sample removed from the state database.
Black says hers would be the first bill to propose that all felony arrests in Missouri lead to a DNA sample being taken, but she’s thinking of also offering a proposal that’s been brought up before – the requirement that DNA samples that have been collected be tested.
“A lot of times its collected but it’s not actually being ran and processed and blueprinted for future use,” said Black. “Probably we would like to resurrect that one as a companion bill.”
She said she’s asking the Missouri Highway Patrol for information on what requiring the testing of all samples would cost, “but DNA testing, because the science behind it has evolved so much, it is getting less costly to do the testing.”
Rossi said that would also be an overreach.
“Bills like this kind of give the state and the government carte blanche to cast a DNA dragnet and see what they can catch. It’s an invasion of privacy,” said Rossi.
Still, she said the arguments that cold cases could be solved and victim’s families might learn answers are compelling, and perhaps a “middle ground” could be reached on those proposals.
“We’d love to talk about Representative Black about it and we’ll try to make a point to do so before the session starts,” said Rossi.