State News

Bill on pre-conviction DNA samples advances

Posted July 6, 2010 8:05 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2010 3:50 p.m. EDT

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— North Carolina lawmakers are inching closer to a law allowing investigators to take DNA samples from suspects before any criminal conviction.

The House on Tuesday voted 92-23 to tentatively approve requiring DNA collection from people when they are arrested for serious crimes.

Opponents worry collecting DNA before a conviction tramples on civil liberties, but supporters say collecting DNA and comparing the results to blood or other biological evidence collected from crime scenes could prevent new crimes by catching repeat offenders.

Backers also argue DNA evidence has freed hundreds of innocent people nationwide.

A final House vote could come Wednesday. The measure then would need approval by the Senate and Gov. Bev Perdue.

North Carolina already has a law that requires convicted felons to submit DNA samples. Since it went into effect in 2003, the state's DNA database has grown from 18,000 samples to more than 190,000, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has said, and it has solved more than 1,400 crimes.

In the first year the new law would be in place, Cooper estimates that the state DNA database could be expanded by a projected 45,000 samples and solve an estimated 100 cases.