House Democrats seek to expand DNA database
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House Democrats seek to expand DNA database

Date: January 22, 2007
By: Matt Tilden
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Democrats introduced their proposal to give law enforcement a new tool on Monday.  Anyone charged with a felony would be forced to give law enforcement a sample of their DNA if the Democratic proposal is enacted. 

The proposal seeks to include people charged with a felony, in addition to people convicted of a felony, in the Missouri DNA database.  It would also allow for juvenile samples to be taken in instances in which they were convicted of a felony in an adult criminal justice system. 

State Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City, the bill's sponsor, says he believes that this proposal would assist law enforcement in solving more crimes and that it would also help to exonerate suspects who are innocent. "I think it is a very valuable tool for the law enforcement community," Burnett said, "But it also benefits the individual." 

 He also addressed the long-term effects of the legislation on the DNA sample database and fears that it might create an excess of samples.  "I don't think it will have a negative effect.  I think it might not have a positive effect for a while until it is funded.  I think it will have a positive effect in the investigation of the instant crime."

Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, Chairman of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety committee, said he had not heard of the proposal yet, but would be open to discussing it with Burnett.

"DNA evidence is probably one of the greatest tools that I think we've ever seen and there's many things we can do with it," Bruns said.  "This proposal, it's something that, as chair of the Crime Prevention committee, I'd be willing to take a look at."

Bruns was unsure about the proposal's constitutionality and wary of the legal battle that might ensue, though he is in favor of studying the issue further.

  "I'd almost be sure of one thing.  If we did pass it, I would say there would be a court challenge to it," Bruns said.  "Even though I promote doing everything we can to stop crime and to make it easier for our police and our prosecutors to solve criminal cases, I hate to see the state of Missouri get involved in a huge legal battle where it is going to cost us millions of dollars to try to defend something that may not be constitutional." 

Burnett said that the proposal was constitutional and that it would not pose a threat to civil liberties.  "I think that it's solid, black-letter law that you do not have a constitutional right to protect your DNA, to protect your blood, to protect your body fluids or any other part of your identity."