Feds change policy, will now collect DNA from every person they arrest

| Thursday, April 17, 2008

The federal government will begin collecting DNA samples from every person arrested, a Justice Department spokesman reportedly confirmed on Wednesday, April 16.

Anyone arrested and any foreigner detained by a federal law enforcement agency will have their cheek swabbed, The Associated Press reported, a move beyond the previous policy of collecting DNA from convicted felons.

The Justice Department will use authority given by Congress from laws passed in 2005 and 2006, The AP reported. The government estimated that its several dozen law enforcement agencies make 140,000 arrests each year.

Those arrested but not convicted can request the Justice Department remove the sample from the database.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said changing the DNA samples requirement from convicted felons to arrestees was “one heck of a big leap to take.”

“I think that’s problematic for a lot of people for a lot of reasons,” Spencer told Land Line. “I think I would expect that to be challenged.”

Those convicted of crimes frequently are already forced to submit DNA for federal databases, said Jim Baxter, President of the National Motorists Association – a Milwaukee-based organization that fights for the rights of motorists. The difference is, however, that those convicted are just that – convicted, Baxter said.

“When a person is arrested it doesn’t mean they’re guilty of anything,” Baxter told Land Line. “It’s one thing to be arrested and another to be convicted. Our point would be as long as you can identify the person. This seems like overkill to throw them into a federal database.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

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