The state of Virginia considers joining a growing number of states to pass laws that require DNA samples from criminals convicted of misdemeanors.

It’s generally commonly accepted that if a person is convicted of a serious crime such as murder or rape, their DNA will be collected and saved in a searchable database for future use.

Originally, 42 U.S. Code § 14135a – Collection and use of DNA identification information from certain Federal offenders, subsection (d), provided the requirements for the federal and state government collection of DNA from offenders.

This requires DNA samples to be collected from those who are convicted of a federal felony, a sex crime or crime of violence as defined by 18 U.S. Code Chapter 109A – SEXUAL ABUSE and 18 U.S. Code § 16 – Crime of violence defined.

Any actual attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime also results in the collection of DNA for inclusion in CODIS – the Combined DNA Index System used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition to the federally mandated DNA collection regulations required of all 50 states, passed by Congress as the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, individual state laws may mandate additional offenses requiring the collection of DNA samples.

As of June 2012, only 28 states had enacted arrestee DNA collection laws, according to the National Institute of Justice, with Louisiana being the first in 1997, followed by 4 others. It wasn’t until after the passing of the DNA Fingerprint Act in 2005 that the other 23 states enacted such laws, all prior to 2012.

 

States That Have Enacted Arrestee DNA Collection Laws in the United States (as of June 2012)
States That Have Enacted Arrestee DNA Collection Laws in the United States (as of June 2012) National Institute of Justice

At that time (from 2005 to 2012), only 7 of the 28 states included collection of samples for certain non-federal offenses – Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, South Carolina, South Dakota (and possibly Oklahoma). New York was the first state to mandate DNA samples from nearly all convicted criminals, regardless of how minor the offense (including jumping a subway turnstile).

A growing number of states are beginning to add DNA samples from those with certain misdemeanor convictions to the DNA database. In addition to New York’s collection from everyone, Iowa collects DNA for aggravated misdemeanors and Utah collects the DNA of anyone convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.

Virginia is considering adding itself to the list as the fourth state collecting DNA for misdemeanors. While it is unclear exactly which misdemeanors will be included if Virginia passes the new law, the three bills under consideration include crimes such as violation of a protection order, indecent exposure, trespassing and stalking.

While each state varies in how they classify misdemeanors, most consider misdemeanors to be those crimes that are non-felonies and are punishable by fines or less than one a year in jail. Typical misdemeanors include theft, DUI, vandalism, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, trespassing, failure to appear in court and disturbing the peace.

Supporters believe that requiring DNA samples for such minor crimes will help to solve or prevent more serious crimes. The selling point in Virginia is the case of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. Many believe that her life may have been saved if the law had been in place prior to her abduction. Jesse Matthews, the man accused in this case, has along history of charges.

The idea is that those who are arrested and charged with a minor misdemeanor will have their DNA added to the database. Once the DNA is in the database, it may lead to a conviction of a previous felony, murder, rape or other crime where the DNA was collected at the scene but never identified.

However, those opposed to misdemeanor DNA collection say it is a violation of privacy and unnecessary, some feeling it gives the state too much control.

Source: Digital Journal