A new North Carolina law, N.C.G.S. § 15A-266.3A entitled “The DNA Database Act of 2010” takes effect today, Tuesday, February 1, 2011.
The law permits law enforcement officers to take swabs to collect a person’s DNA when a defendant is arrested, and before they are convicted, for certain crimes, including both felonies and misdemeanors. Examples include such offenses as first degree murder, second degree murder, some sexual offenses, manslaughter, assaults, kidnapping, stalking, and burglaries. The law has provisions for removal of a defendant’s DNA from the database if the person is acquitted of the charges which qualify the defendant’s DNA from being taken under the new law. At least 20 other states have similar laws on the books, including Virginia.
While the new law will most certainly help solve crimes, and especially cold crimes because of the increased collection of DNA samples, some find the new law controversial because it allows for the collection of DNA before the defendants are convicted. The new laws allowing DNA collection without convictions implicate Fourth Amendment issues for the criminal justice system. Good discussions about these issues can be found in the UNC School of Government Blog on Criminal Law and in bulletins by the National Institute of Justice.