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State Lawmakers Want To Broaden DNA Testing

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Should you be required to give the state a sample of your DNA even if you have not been convicted of a crime? Currently in North Carolina, only people convicted of violent offenses and stalking must submit a sample, but some lawmakers want to change that.

A random DNA database match linked Linwood Forte to four Wayne County murders and four rapes nearly 11 years after the crime spree started in 1990. Senate Bill 7 seeks to expand the reach of the state's database by mandating that all convicted felons and suspects arrested for violent crimes submit their DNA.

"That's an invaluable tool to identify somebody with the incident or exclude them," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

Rand reintroduced the bill despite two prior defeats.

"I don't see that it's overly intrusive," he said.

WRAL's 2002 investigation showed how the state of Virginia has far outpaced North Carolina with more DNA analysts and a much larger database. Attorney General Roy Cooper said North Carolina should learn from the commonwealth's success in solving cold cases.

"Over half of them have come from hits on people who were non-violent when they were put into the database," he said.

Patricia Camp, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes taking DNA from people who have not been given due process violates their rights and opens the door for misuse.

"Say you have a person who is wrongfully convicted. Are they taken out of the database?" she said.

Aside from the constitutional issues, critics argue collecting DNA from people arrested would also complicate matters for local police because they would suddenly responsible for collecting that DNA. DNA supporters argue if public safety is the goal, building the database is a proven way to solve and prevent more crimes.

During tough budget times, cost is also a concern. Lawmakers are looking at federal grants and fees to pay for the expanded database.