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Full Senate Approves Sacco/Girgenti Bill To Expand Crime-Fighting Potential Of DNA Database

Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen, votes in the Senate Chambers.

TRENTON – The full Senate today approved a bill sponsored by Senators Nicholas J. Sacco and John A. Girgenti that would increase law enforcement’s crime-fighting potential by expanding New Jersey’s DNA law to require samples from individuals arrested on suspicion of certain violent crimes. The measure was approved by a vote of 33 to 2.

Current DNA law only requires samples to be taken from individuals convicted of certain violent crimes. The bill (S-737) approved today would amend the state’s “DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994” to require DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of these crimes: murder; manslaughter; second degree aggravated assault when the person attempts to cause or causes serious bodily injury to another or causes bodily injury while fleeing or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; luring or enticing a child; engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of a child; or aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact or an attempt to commit any of these offenses.

“By expanding the law to include anyone arrested on suspicion of these crimes, New Jersey joins a growing legion of roughly 20 other states that have made this move in an effort to bring wanted criminals to justice. Studies show that there is a 40 percent chance that burglaries and other nonviolent crimes are being committed by someone who has already committed a violent crime,” said Senator Sacco (D-Bergen/Hudson).

“What fingerprints were to 20th century crime-fighting, DNA is for 21st century law enforcement,” said Senator Girgenti (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s the most reliable form of evidence at a crime scene and it provides benefits on both sides of the justice equation. By expanding our DNA database, we’re more likely to find a hit that could result in the conviction of elusive, violent criminals and also exonerate individuals who were wrongly convicted for another person’s crime.”

The FBI uses a system called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) to provide for the storage and exchange of DNA records on a national basis. CODIS consists of a “forensic” index containing DNA profiles from crime scene evidence. It also has an “offender” index, with DNA profiles of convicted offenders. By electronically comparing DNA profiles from those indexes, analysts often are able to obtain “hits” (or matches) between DNA found at crime scenes and DNA profiles of convicted offenders. Analysts also can link multiple, unsolved crimes to a single perpetrator by comparing profiles in the forensic database.

The bill also stipulates that if the charges against a person from whom a DNA sample was collected are dismissed, or if a person is acquitted at trial, the sample would be destroyed, and all related records expunged, upon submission of an application with the court order.

In order to ensure compliance with DNA collection, the bill would also make it a crime of the fourth degree for any person who knowingly refuses to submit to the collection of a blood or biological sample. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The bill now heads to the General Assembly for consideration.

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