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All arrested for felony must give DNA

May 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Newly-hired scientists and more storage space will enable the DNA lab to gear up for Jan. 1. That's when the state will start collecting DNA samples from not just convicted felons, but anyone arrested in California for a felony. The majority of Californians want crimes solved -- especially cold cases.

"There's a lot of anonymity in our modern society, and people can commit crimes and get away quickly in a car, on the freeway ... never to be seen again," said CA Attorney General Jerry Brown. "DNA is somewhat an equalizer."

There is a process to remove DNA samples from people found not guilty. Still, the expansion is controversial because all it takes is an arrest.

"People who are arrested under our system are presumed innocent, but they're going to be treated like criminals and put in a criminal database," said Michael Risher from the ACLU.

Voters approved Proposition 69 back in 2004, which forced the state to collect DNA from convicted felons. The databank now houses samples from more than a million offenders and is the third largest in the world behind the United States and England. To date, this lab has had 6,000 hits.

"The best and brightest days of my life as a cold case detective is when I can dial the phone and say, 'Hey. We got him.' Imagine being on the other end of that phone call," said Deputy Ron Breuss from Santa Clara County.

The state also implemented a new policy just last week. Instead of a perfect match (26 of 26 genetic markers), the state will start notifying law enforcement when only 15 of the 26 match. It'll help detectives locate possible relatives of suspects.

"If that happens, where one of these partial matches does, in fact, share the same Y-type or same male lineage, as the crime scene sample that would be significant," said California DNA Database Supervisor Matt Piucci.

The ACLU doesn't support that either, because of the way police might behave.

"They can go investigate, question and maybe harass people who they know to be innocent of the present crime," said Risher.

 

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