Bill would expand DNA collection from felony suspects
Posted May 7, 2015
Updated May 11, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Suspects arrested for a violent felony would have their DNA collected if a bill passed Thursday by the Senate Judiciary II Committee becomes law.
A law passed more than a decade ago already requires North Carolina law enforcement agencies to collect DNA from suspects arrested in a range of crimes in the state. Those include murder, kidnapping, armed robbery or any offense that would require someone, if convicted, to register as a sex offender.
Senate Bill 351 would expand that list to all violent felonies, which would add more than 30 crimes to the list for which DNA collection would be mandatory. Those would include malicious castration, train robbery and secret peeping, as well as crimes such as the throwing of a corrosive acid and child abuse.
"DNA analysis is an extremely powerful tool for keeping our community safe," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. "It gets violent criminals off the street and can also serve to exonerate the innocent."
About 10 percent of all felonies are currently covered by the DNA sampling law, Stein said. That translates into roughly 10,000 samples taken every year. Including the new group of felonies covered by Stein's bill would add roughly 4,000 samples every year.
When a sample is taken, it is compared against samples available from the scenes of unsolved crimes. Matches can bring about arrests in rapes, murders and other crimes that have gone unsolved for years.
If a suspect is acquitted of the crime or the case is dismissed by prosecutors, it is supposed to be expunged from the system. Only those who are convicted of the felony charges would have their samples permanently logged.
Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, asked how the increased number of samples would affect the highly publicized backlogs at the state crime labs.
Laboratory Director John Byrd told Cook that the backlogs in question deal with processing evidence related to casework, not the routine collection of DNA samples from suspects.
The measure, which would provide more funding for DNA technicians and equipment, now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.