The number of Californians forced to give the state blood or cheek tissue samples would dramatically expand under a bill approved unanimously yesterday by the state Senate, reports the Sacramento Bee. If the measure is approved by the Assembly and signed by the governor, California would begin collecting DNA samples from all felons. Current law requires tissue samples from adults convicted of sex offenses and a handful of other major crimes.
DNA samples in the state database are matched against evidence left at crime scenes, aiding efforts to resolve both ongoing investigations and unsolved crimes. “This is about solving crimes,” said Sen. Jackie Speier, the sponsor. She said it is well within the state’s right to collect samples from convicts. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected previous efforts to expand the database, but this year the measure, passed with the blessing of Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. Burton said the fact that the DNA database bill is tied to a separate measure to help fund it and aid those behind bars prove their innocence helped him support the measure.
The other bill would add $1.50 to every $10 law enforcement penalty, fine, and forfeiture. Of the $34 million the increase in fines is expected to raise, $2 million would go to a special fund aimed at helping people convicted of crimes prove their innocence through DNA analysis.
An initiative that would create an even broader state DNA database – eventually requiring samples from everyone arrested on suspicion of a felony offense – is another factor that some say contributed to the Senate’s about-face. “I’m pretty confident that this bill would not have passed were it not for the initiative,” said Mitch Zak, a spokesman for the effort.