Testing more people for DNA

Wednesday, January 26th 2005, 9:48 am

By: News On 6

An Oklahoma lawmaker's bill would require everyone convicted of a felony, to give a sample of his or her DNA for the state database.

Only violent criminals and sex offenders have to right now. If the bill becomes law, people convicted of crimes like felony drunk driving or bad checks would also have to.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says DNA becomes more important in criminal cases every day, both to convict people and to clear their names. Some say to get the most use of DNA evidence, you have to have a large number of samples.

Oklahoma currently has 33,000 samples on file. Our state has required samples from violent and sex offenders since 1996, burglars were added in 2001. Our database is now part of a national one called CODIS that allows states to compare DNA from all over the country.

If State House bill 1219 becomes a law, the number of samples in the state's database would quadruple, because DNA from all felons, violent and non-violent would be added. The lawmaker behind the bill says that would increase the odds of identifying criminals and solving crimes. He says it's all about public safety. However, others feel it's all about taking away our rights. Attorney Wayne Copeland: "When is it going to stop? When we're born, they take your DNA and fingerprints and mugshot? They do all that and get all your personal information. We have no more privacy interests in this country. People know more about you than you know about yourself."

If police have an unsolved case, they put the DNA in the database and hope for a hit or a match; we've had 71 hits in four years. The hit often matches someone already in prison for another crime, which is what freed this man from prison after a hit found the real rapist, already behind bars.

Police support the idea of all felons giving samples. They say just because someone got busted for stealing a car, doesn't mean they haven't committed a rape in the past or might do something violent in the future. However, others wonder, what's next? Wayne Copeland: "When does it get to misdemeanors? Get to traffic tickets where before you pay the fine, you have to give a DNA sample?”

Defense attorneys plan to lobby against this bill.

If it becomes law, it will be very expensive. The state lawmaker who wrote it, says some of the expense could be covered by a $1-billion dollar DNA initiative recently approved by the president.

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