DNA profiles from hundreds of thousands of adult and juvenile offenders arrested but not convicted of crimes could be added to the FBI’s database under a proposal moving through Congress, USA Today reports. If enacted, it would be the largest single expansion of federal power to use DNA since the national database was created in 1992. The FBI says it holds genetic profiles from about 1.4 million adults convicted of state and federal crimes.
The authorization, in a bill that would authorize $755 million for DNA testing, was approved by the House this month. The Senate is likely to approve a similar version by early next year.
The FBI system uses computers to match a person’s DNA to samples taken from unsolved state and federal crimes. Using DNA drawn from convicted adults, the system made 8,920 matches through September, the FBI says.
Proponents argue that keeping DNA profiles on file to solve future crimes differs little from maintaining a database of fingerprints, which the FBI also does. The American Civil Liberties Union says DNA is different because it contains genetic information that should be kept private. Taking a person’s DNA before he is convicted, said ACLU lobbyist Jesselyn McCurdy, “removes the presumption of innocence.” Advocates for juveniles say giving teenagers a “permanent criminal genetic record” defeats the purpose of the juvenile justice system by treating the youths as adults.
Thirty states already collect DNA from juvenile offenders. Virginia began taking DNA from all arrestees in January and expects to collect 8,000 samples this year. Virginia has matched DNA taken from arrestees to 40 unsolved crimes, including 11 sexual assaults. Federal laws prevent these samples from being added to the national database and compared to unsolved crimes in other states.