Connecticut may be on their way to becoming the next state to require DNA collection in all felony arrests. Under current laws, DNA isn’t collected until someone has been convicted. But supporters of the new legislation state earlier collection is needed to protect the public.
According to the ACLU this change translates to a presumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence. They oppose the change and say it is a violation of civil rights. But their opposition is not likely to stop the bill from moving forward—it seems to have relatively overwhelming support.
Even one lawmaker who originally opposed such laws in Connecticut has changed his tune, now sponsoring the bill. It seems the exoneration of James Tillman played a role. Tillman was freed after serving 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit—freed by the pre-conviction DNA of a Virginia suspect.
The legislation would make Connecticut the 25th state to pass such a measure. Supporters say the collection of DNA is no more intrusive than fingerprints or mugshots and state the DNA would be destroyed if the suspect was later exonerated of the arresting criminal charges.
Another lawmaker supporting the law states that the legislation is necessary as it will allow the cross-referencing of DNA and the potential solving of many currently unsolved crimes. What sources don’t saw is whether there will be any restrictions on the use of the DNA before the suspect is convicted. For instance, will law enforcement be able to cross check the DNA profile up until the person is exonerated and the DNA then discarded or will they only be able to use in reference to the case the suspect is currently facing charges on?
Another argument for the law points out that DNA testing has led to the exoneration of more than 200 innocent people, convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.
So, does the law infringe on the rights of the suspect and if so, is that infringement justified because of the potential for the DNA to vindicate the innocent and deliver justice to the guilty? That’s something that lawmakers will have to determine and no doubt something that might ultimately be challenged by the ACLU down the road.
In the meantime, you can expect to have fingerprints and other various non intrusive information gathered when you are arrested. But don’t think for a moment that you are immune to other intrusive procedures pre-conviction. Being strip searched and deprived of all of your personal effects can have a lasting impact on the human psyche.
If you’ve been arrested and are facing criminal charges, you might feel like no one in the system is on your side. An experienced defense attorney can be. Contact me today for a consultation on your case.