Ga. lawmakers pushing for DNA sampling bill for arrested felons


News 12 at 6 o' clock/ July 26, 2013

GEORGIA--DNA matching plays a big role in catching criminals these days. And Georgia wants to take DNA tests a step further. Other states have laws on the books allowing police to take DNA samples rom arrested suspects, and now, some Georgia lawmakers are trying to do the same.

Annette Black knows all too well the importance of DNA databases. Her son was murdered nearly a year ago in Blackville. She says, "I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I just wake up crying."

And right now, police only have one good lead. She says, "Only thing they told me is that they have some good DNA but it wasn't matching to anybody."

Right now, most states take DNA samples from criminals convicted of serious crimes, but in South Carolina, they are even allowed to take DNA samples from those just arrested for felonies.

Black's sister, Frankie says, "I feel that a lot more states should do this."

The Black family is hoping, one day, their son's killer will slip up, and find himself charged with a crime that requires him to give his DNA .

Black says, "That would be the happiest day of my life. That would just make me feel so much better to know that they got the person that did it."

Other states could be following South Carolina's lead. The Supreme Court just ruled in favor of a similar law in Maryland last month, saying it is constitutional to take DNA from arrested felons. Now, other states are drafting their own versions of the law.

Frankie says, "Not only my nephew but there's so many other unsolved murders and this will help to catch the bad guy so to speak."

Senate Bill 135 in Georgia would take away the word 'convicted' from the DNA testing bill already on the books, and replace it with 'arrested,' a change the Black family supports in case their son's killer pops up in the Georgia system.

"If you didn't do anything, you shouldn't have a problem with your DNA being tested," Frankie says.

So, while the Black family waits for justice, they hope lawmakers realize why DNA databases are so important.

"When this happened it was our family, but tomorrow it could be yours," Frankie says.

While the Black family may be all for this new law, not everyone is on board. Many say it violates privacy laws. The Georgia division of the ACLU released this statement, saying:

"In spite of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Maryland v. King, which found a similar law to be constitutional on the federal level, we believe SB 135 would be found unconstitutional in Georgia because our state constitution offers greater privacy protections than the U.S. Constitution.

"DNA testing of arrestees has little to do with the criminal investigation relating to the arrest. Rather, it is meant to assist law enforcement with investigating unsolved crimes. While that is certainly an important government interest, courts have long found that searches related to criminal investigations require individualized suspicion. While the U.S. Supreme Court inexplicably decided to eliminate that critical safeguard on the federal level, we remain confident that Georgia courts will continue to require individualized suspicion to protect the privacy rights of those criminal suspects who remain innocent until proven guilty."


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