Local News

N.C. Legislator Proposes Statewide DNA Bank

Posted February 10, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST

— If one North Carolina lawmaker has his way, police will start taking DNA like fingerprints. A Fayetteville legislator says the statewide DNA bank will help police nab the right criminals, but some people say the bill would strip you of personal information.

A bill before the state Senate would require everyone arrested for violent and sexual felonies to give a sample of their DNA to the bank. If police find DNA evidence at a crime scene, they could run it against the information from the DNA bank to see if there is a match

"We need to give the criminal justice system as many tools as possible," says Sen. Tony Rand (D-Fayetteville).

Civil rights advocates call it an invasion of privacy, because the people who are arrested are not always convicted of a crime.

"He wants their DNA taken before the district attorney even knows they've been picked up, or before there's been an indictment. "He wants to stockpile people's DNA," says Deborah Ross of the state chapter of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union.

Unlike a fingerprint, DNA contains a huge amount of genetic information like your risk of developing certain diseases.

"There's nothing in this bill that says the government can't use the DNA for other purposes. There's nothing in this bill that says, when it wants to, it can sell this information," Ross says.

Rand says, in criminal justice, there is always a balancing act between privacy and public safety.

"We will protect the privacy of these samples only for identification purposes and no other. I have no doubts that can be accomplished," he says.

DNA evidence helped a former Marine prove his innocence for a crime.Lesley Jeanspent almost 10 years in prison on rape charges before DNA results proved he was innocent. Jean was pardoned by Gov. Mike Easley last week.