Virginia authorities have started a massive review of the state’s DNA database after discovering that thousands of felons may have skirted a requirement to submit samples, partly because local and state agencies may have failed to make them do so, the Washington Post reports. Officials estimate that at least 20 percent of felons’ DNA profiles could be missing from the database, a flaw that could hamper criminal investigations across the nation. Investigators routinely take crime scene evidence and run it through Virginia’s database and others looking for DNA matches.
Virginia law requires all convicted felons and those arrested in connection with violent crimes such as rape or homicide to submit cheek swabs for DNA analysis and entry into the database, which holds more than 253,000 samples. Long considered a leader in DNA crime technology, Virginia has logged about 3,600 “cold hits” from its database — matching biological evidence from a crime scene to an offender’s DNA profile. Louisiana, which has some of the nation’s broadest DNA collection laws, has become the envy of many states for a highly advanced and centralized computer system that allows jails, courts and law enforcement agencies to track which offenders have submitted DNA samples. State crime lab director Paul Ferrara said, “I’m not surprised that there are missing felons. What would be surprising is the magnitude. That’s the thing we’re not sure on.”