UPDATE: DNA samples soon required after some arrests in Missouri

Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 5:24 p.m. CDT; updated 5:42 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri police will soon begin taking DNA samples along with booking photos and fingerprints when they make arrests.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday requiring DNA be taken from people age 17 and older who are arrested on suspicion of violent felonies, sex offenses or burglary. The DNA samples will be discarded if charges aren't filed, if the charges are dropped or if the suspect is acquitted at trial.

Missouri already collects DNA samples from convicted felons before they are released from prison. It joins at least 15 other states in collecting it after some arrests, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Collecting more DNA samples will help solve crime because it will expand the database used to check evidence from crime scenes, Nixon said during a bill signing ceremony in the state crime lab. Nixon, who was the state's attorney general for 16 years before becoming governor, called the bill a step into a "new world" that uses science to fight crime.

"If you don't have the science behind you, you're going to have problems," said Nixon. "And I think that this whole measure has the flavor to it of us investing in the best scientific technology that will speed the justice system, convict the right people that we should convict, free the people we should free."

He said the DNA submissions were no more of a burden for criminal suspects than the blood-alcohol tests suspected drunken drivers must take. But critics contend it's an invasion of privacy to collect DNA samples before someone has been proven guilty.

John Coffman, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said Thursday that discarding samples from those who aren't convicted alleviates some concerns but doesn't go far enough. DNA gives data about family ties and health conditions and could be used for more than just identification, he said.

"If you are innocent until proven guilty, we don't think you should be compelled by the government to reveal that much private information about yourself," Coffman said.

During legislative debate earlier this year, one bill sponsor acknowledged the bill raises some privacy concerns. But he said the crime-solving capabilities of an expanded database outweigh those concerns.

DNA collected from convicted felons helped in almost 200 homicide investigations and resulted in DNA matches in 1,884 cases from January 2005, when it started, through last year, bill supporters said.

The legislation signed by Nixon is expected to increase the number of samples in the database by 43,000 after several years.

The governor also signed several other crime-related bills Thursday. They include a measure increasing the penalties for cattle rustlers, increasing restrictions on sex offenders and toughening the punishment for financial fraud against seniors.

The new laws also prohibit texting-while-driving for people age 21 or younger, ban beer bongs and kegs on many rivers and allow prosecutions for endangering the welfare of a child for those who have methamphetamine in the presence of a child who is under age 17.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.