New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, calling genetic identification “the fingerprint of the 21st century,” has signed a bill requiring all criminals to provide a DNA sample for analysis and inclusion in a computerized database, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
The state already has DNA samples from 11,869 people convicted of sex offenses and violent crimes. Covering all convicts will give State Police genetic information on an estimated 140,000 people within two years and a powerful new weapon for solving crime, the newspaper says.
A new $2 surcharge on traffic tickets is expected to raise $8.2 million a year to pay for the testing.
At least 23 other states have similar laws, and dozens of others have legislation pending.
In New Jersey, trained law enforcement officers will take a DNA sample — usually through a cheek swab — from all adults and juveniles who are convicted of any crime, from theft or fraud involving more than $200 to burglary and armed robbery. Defendants acquitted on the basis of insanity also must provide a sample. The new law applies retroactively to 120,000 convicts in prison, on probation and on parole. Once those tests are done, DNA tests will be needed on an estimated 27,500 new convicts each year.
In Virginia, which has required DNA samples from all felons since 1990 and has 190,000 genetic profiles in its database, the program is credited with solving 90 homicides and 196 sexual assaults. Virginia and three other states take DNA samples at the time of arrest. New Jersey rejected that approach.
Ed Barocas of the American Civil Liberties Union said DNA testing in New Jersey began with sex criminals and “has now grown beyond anything we could imagine…”Now a 13-year-old who shoplifts will have his DNA code collected by the government and maintained throughout his life,” he said. Maria Noto, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, said the new law is dangerously broad. Someone with a record could wrongly become the leading suspect in a new crime, she said.