NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some States Restrict DNA Testing Of Criminals

June 6, 2000

Sampling the DNA of convicted criminals and comparing it to crime scene DNA samples is the most significant innovation in crime-fighting since the science of fingerprinting was developed more than a century ago. Yet state legislatures are increasingly circumscribing its use.

  • All states test the DNA of sex offenders and 37 collect the DNA of convicted murderers -- but only 28 allow it in cases of assault and battery, 25 in cases of felony attempts, 24 in cases involving juveniles, 22 in kidnappings, 19 in robberies and 18 in burglary cases.
  • Seven states test all felons -- including white-collar criminals, credit-card cheats and other non-violent offenders -- on the theory that violent offenders often start out committing lesser crimes.
  • But in the past six months, 11 legislatures rejected or declined to act on bills designed to expand the number of offenders from whom DNA is drawn, while six states passed such bills.
  • States have taken more than 750,000 DNA samples since 1989.

Civil liberties groups are prominent opponents of expanded testing, claiming concerns over personal privacy.

However, since 1992, 70 prisoners -- including eight on death row -- have been released after DNA tests cast doubt on their convictions. More than 1,300 prosecutions have been aided when DNA profiles on state databases were matched via computer with suspects or evidence from crime scenes, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Source: Richard Willing, "As Police Rely More on DNA, States Take a Closer Look," USA Today, June 6, 2000.


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