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Senator Sacco

Measure Would Extend DNA Sampling To Convictions of Disorderly Person’s Offenses

TRENTON In an effort to assist criminal investigations and deter and detect recidivist acts, Senators Nicholas J. Sacco and Paul Sarlo sponsored legislation that would add disorderly person’s offenses to the list of criminal conduct that, upon conviction, requires biological sampling for the DNA database was passed yesterday by the General Assembly, receiving final legislative approval.

“DNA is one of the most powerful tools we have to identify perpetrators and exonerate those falsely accused of crimes,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson. “A more expansive DNA database will enable us to solve investigations with greater speed and accuracy. By limiting biological testing to disorderly person’s convictions that currently require fingerprinting, this legislation only affects a small percentage of offenders and takes a sensible approach to fighting crime.”

The bill, S-436, would expand the DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994, which requires a person convicted of an indictable crime to submit to DNA sampling. The bill would add disorderly person’s convictions for which fingerprints are already taken under state law to the list of criminal conduct that requires sampling upon conviction. Current law requires a person convicted of a crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree to provide a genetic sample for DNA profiling. A person arrested for certain violent crimes is also required to submit a DNA sample under current law.

Under the bill, adults and juveniles convicted of, adjudicated delinquent, or found not guilty by reason of insanity of disorderly offenses would be required to provide a biological sample. The sample would be obtained upon imprisonment or, if the person is not sentenced to imprisonment, as a condition of the sentence. Persons imprisoned or on parole or probation for a specified disorderly person’s offense when the law becomes effective also would be required to submit to DNA sampling pursuant to the bill.

After a sample is taken, the Division of State Police identifies, analyzes, and stores it in a state databank. Results of the sample are confidential under state statute. The division also forwards the DNA information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). By electronically comparing DNA profiles in the indexes, analysts can link multiple crimes to a single perpetrator, solve ongoing criminal cases, and exonerate the innocent.

“Recent advancements in forensic science have revolutionized the way that law enforcement agencies fight crime and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen. “But under existing conditions, we do not take full advantage of this useful technology and a large percentage of serious crimes go unsolved. Expanding the DNA database is the next step in our ongoing effort to improve public safety and prevent future crimes.”

The bill reflects a Supreme Court decision on June 3, 2013, which ruled that the police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that the “quick and painless” swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment, and justified as reasonable, given “the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”

The federal government and 28 states currently authorize DNA collection after an arrest. All fifty states require the collection of DNA from people convicted of felonies.

The Assembly approved the bill 53-18. The Senate passed the legislation in June with a vote of 34-4. It bow heads to the Governor.

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