Proposed law would get DNA samples of all felony arrest suspects
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04/07/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

This morning, a bill that would take the DNA of all people arrested for felonies in Florida won approval in committee, despite objections from the ACLU.

Currently, DNA is collected only of people convicted of felonies.

But Alachua County Republican Steve Oelrich, a retired sheriff, says his proposal would help protect Floridians from criminals who are repeat offenders.

And Oelrich said that his bill adds protections for the disclosures of DNA records and samples. Intentional disclosure or tampering of such samples or records for purposes not under the law would be subject to a third degree felony. But the law would subject those arrested who refuse to submit DNA samples to a second degree felony.

Orlando area Democrat Gary Siplin asked Oelrich what would happen to those who were ultimately found to be innocent of felony charges, but who have already had their DNA collected.

Courtney Strickland is the Director of Public Policy with the ACLU of Florida. She said DNA is a useful tool for law enforcement, but believes the proposed bill goes to far.

Strickland said the presumption of innocence would not be given to those whose DNA has already been collected in a criminal database. And Strickland says there is a difference between collecting fingerprints from somebody arrested, and collecting their DNA, and says it will end costing the state more.

Mike Ramadge from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said his organization strongly supported Oelrich’s bill. He used as an example of why the law is needed by referring a Chester Turner, who arrested in 1987, but not convicted.

But Siplin again asked Ramadge what was the plan for automatically expunging the DNA records of those found innocent?

Ulrich said fingerprints and photographs aren’t expunged for innocent people.

Currently, only 13 states in the country have such a DNA database. The bill will continue to move through other committees before a final vote.

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