California lawmakers are once again trying to expand the collection of DNA evidence in criminal cases, something they say has declined under Proposition 47, hurting cold rape and murder investigations, reports the Los Angeles Times. The landmark ballot measure, which voters passed in 2014, reduced drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors in a move to lower the jail and prison population. But the list of felony cases from which police are required to gather DNA evidence has been narrowed, causing a drop in the state’s database of forensic samples. Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) says he hopes to address that “unintended consequence” through the reintroduction of Assembly Bill 16, which would order investigators to gather swab samples, blood specimens, palm prints and fingerprints from offenders convicted of certain misdemeanors.
The bill died last legislative session in the Senate Public Safety Committee amid opposition from privacy and civil rights advocates who found its provisions too far-reaching. But Cooper said it was a good proposal worth pitching again. The bill would apply to misdemeanors that were considered felonies when voters in November 2004 passed Proposition 69, which required authorities to collect DNA evidence from all felons. It also would apply to some drug and theft offenses that before the passage of Proposition 47 were known as “wobblers,” or crimes that could be charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on their severity. Supporters of the legislation say collection of forensic evidence in these types of cases is crucial to investigations that have gone cold.