The Georgia Bureau of Investigation gained the power to compare crime suspects’ DNA samples with a database of genetic evidence collected from 150,000 offenders and nearly 7,000 unsolved cases, under legislation Gov. Sonny Perdue signed Wednesday. Existing law only allowed comparisons of DNA collected from incarcerated convicted offenders and certain felony probationers, which has prevented the GBI from asking whether someone investigators suspect of a crime, but have little evidence against, is tied to any other crimes.
The legislation was in part a response to the kidnapping and murder of Meredith Emerson, who disappeared while hiking in north Georgia on News Year’s Day, reports the Augusta Chronicle. With little evidence against suspect Gary Hilton, authorities held him in custody on a misdemeanor charge of skipping court, but suspected he might have been linked to other crimes in the state. DNA samples must be obtained through a search warrant and, appeasing some privacy concerns, cannot be stored in the database after they are checked.