State collects DNA from all felony arrests

May 5, 2008 9:12:27 PM PDT
Police around the state will soon have thousands more DNA samples that could potentially help them solve cold cases. The crime lab in Richmond is now ready to handle them, but there's some concern about when these samples will be collected.

Newly-hired scientists and more storage space will enable the DNA lab to gear up for January 1st.

That's when the state will start collecting DNA samples, from not only convicted felons, but also anyone simply arrested in California for a felony.

"There's a lot of anonymity in our modern society, and people can commit crimes and get away quickly in a car on the freeway, never to be seen again. DNA is somewhat an equalizer," says, California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

There's a process to remove DNA samples of people found not guilty. Still, the expansion is controversial because all it takes is an arrest.

"People who are arrested under our system are presumed innocent, but they're going to be treated like criminals and put in a criminal database," says Michael Risher, an American Civil Liberties Union Attorney.

The databank has housed samples from more than a million offenders since 2004; the third largest in the world behind the United States and Great Britain. To date, the Richmond lab has had 6,000 hits.

"The best and brightest days of my life, as a cold case detective, is when I can dial the phone and say: 'Hey. We got him,'" says Deputy Ron Breuss, a cold case detective for Santa Clara County.

The state also implemented a new policy just last week, requiring only partial hits to alert law enforcement, which could help detectives locate possible relatives of suspects.

"If that happens, where one of these partial matches does, in fact, share the same Y-type or same male lineage, as the crime scene sample, that would be significant," says Matt Piucci, a California DNA Database Supervisor.

The ACLU doesn't support that either because of the way police might behave.

"They can go investigate, question and maybe even harass people who they know to be innocent of the present crime," says Risher.

The ACLU also has concerns the changes in policy unfairly targets the African-American and Latino communities.


Load Comments