NORTH BERGEN – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, the State’s leading proponent of DNA fingerprinting of convicted criminals, vowed today to move forward with legislation this session that would increase the effectiveness of New Jersey’s DNA database.
“DNA fingerprinting has proven to be an invaluable tool for New Jersey’s law enforcement community,” said Senator Sacco, D-Bergen and Hudson. “The database now has about 130,000 samples which can help in quickly identifying suspects, convicting the guilty and exonerating the innocent. This technology has made our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer.”
Senator Sacco has introduced bill S-378, which would expand the DNA Convicted Sampling and Testing Program to include those individuals who are convicted of committing a disorderly persons’ offense or arrested for certain violent crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and sexual assault. If the charges against an arrestee are dropped or the individual is acquitted at trial, any DNA samples and records would have to be destroyed.
“DNA evidence is the 21st century’s answer to fingerprinting, and it is appropriate for us to use it as extensively as we use fingerprinting now,” explained Senator Sacco. “For those who are innocent of any crime, we make sure that innocence is reflected in that we destroy the sample. For those who are guilty, it allows us to search the database much earlier to determine if the criminal is responsible for other, unsolved crimes.”
The DNA database program was recently selected as one of eight winners of the Council of State Governments= 2005 Innovation Awards. The program was recognized for its effectiveness and efficiency, having collected at the time of the award 85,000 samples and having reduced the processing time from 210 to 30 days.
“Criminals are finding news ways to mask their actual fingerprints, but the idea of modifying one’s DNA is only a science-fiction fantasy. Our program is a national model of excellence, and we need to constantly refine the program so that it remains an effective and fair means of determining the guilt or innocence of suspects,” added Senator Sacco.
The bill is now awaiting consideration by the Senate Law, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee. Senator Sacco noted, “Even though this bill did not make it out of committee last session, I am confident I can work with Chairman (Senator John A.) Girgenti and the rest of the Committee to get it before the full Senate this year.”