Applause for new DNA collection law

Historic City News agrees with Governor Charlie Crist who is calling a new DNA collection measure a “common sense” tool in the war on crime.

Tuesday, Crist signed into law a bill expanding the number of people who’s DNA will be collected and included in a statewide database.

Florida joins at least 20 other states with similar laws that require DNA testing of suspects arrested for felony crimes.

Florida law previously required DNA testing of only those criminals who were convicted.

Over the objections of critics that say the measure will result in innocent people being lumped with convicted felons in having their DNA kept in a state databank, Crist signed SB 2276.

“This makes sense,” Crist said at the signing. “This is common sense and the right thing to do.”

Florida’s new state law calls for a phase-in, with the most violent offenses being catalogued first. By 2019, all suspects arrested in Florida or charged with a felony crime will have their DNA collected.

The provision has drawn fire from civil rights groups that say it oversteps constitutional protections and expands the role of law enforcement from “apprehension” to “surveillance”.

“In America, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Courtney Strickland, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Florida. “Thousands of innocent people will now be included in a criminal database.”

“States seem to have bought the line that the bigger the database the better,” Strickland said. “As you expand the case file, you end up making the hay stake bigger and bigger.”

We at Historic City News feel that adding more DNA to the database increases the likelihood of finding a match — even on old cases, even though it may add to processing backlogs.

Backers say the law will significantly expand the size of Florida’s current DNA database and assist law enforcement officers in fighting crime. We say that kind of thinking is right on the mark.

During debate on the issue, supporters said that police often find when they catch a serial predator that the person had never been convicted, but did have at least one prior arrest.

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