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New Bill Would Require DNA Testing of Felony Suspects

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RALEIGH — Mug shots and fingerprints are taken when someone is arrested for a felony; now a senator from Cumberland County wants to start collecting DNA samples from suspected felons.

Currently, DNA samples are only taken after someone is convicted of certain violent felonies or sexual assaults.Senator Tony Randsays taking the sample before will help law enforcement officers do their jobs better.

"There are times when people are subject to assaults where they may have DNA samples under their fingernails," Rand says. "They may have tissue samples under their fingernails. They may have bodily fluids left at the scene, no fingerprints."

Rand says the DNA is needed to disqualify people that are suspected of crimes. Rand says it is needed to help convict people.

Defense lawyer Joe Cheshire disagrees. Cheshire says taking someone's DNA before they are convicted removes the presumption of innocence. "You automatically assume they're guilty," Cheshire says.

He also says DNA testing is too invasive.

"[For] fingerprints you put your finger on a card," Cheshire says. "They don't pull your hair out. They don't stick a needle in your arm."

Ifthe lawpasses it may come down to preventing criminals from going free, or having freedoms taken away.

"We want to be as sure as we can who the people really are."

Rand knows DNA is the one form of identification no one can alter. It's the one way authorities know who we really are.

Rand wants to test the DNA procedure in three counties before initiating it statewide. The bill sets aside a quarter of a million dollars per year to pay for it.