Arizona legislators voted yesterday to expand the state’s DNA database dramatically by requiring all people arrested for certain crimes to provide DNA samples for state records whether they are convicted or not, the Arizona Republic reports. Conservatives and liberals alike raised alarms that the measure would violate the civil liberties of people never convicted of a crime and set a dangerous precedent for government collection of sensitive genetic information. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, a conservative Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said, “It tramples on the liberties and freedom of the people.”
Supporters say the move provides an expanded crime-solving tool for law enforcement; they compared taking a DNA sample to taking a mug shot or fingerprints at the time of arrest. Current law requires DNA samples only after a person is convicted of certain felonies. “As we build that database, more people will be caught before police have to stake out a hotel room and wait for a second victim,” said Sen. Chuck Gray, a former police officer and the measure’s key backer. The provision is part of a state budget package, now awaiting action by Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is expected to sign it.