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Local law enforcement officials applaud new Missouri DNA legislation

BYLINE: RODNEY HART, Herald-Whig Staff Writer


Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday allowing Missouri police to take DNA samples along with booking photos and fingerprints when they make arrests.

The legislation requires DNA to 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 or are dropped, or if the suspect is acquitted at trial.

"This is a good idea, and I applaud Gov. Nixon for his action," Marion County Prosecutor Tom Redington said. "It is a sad fact of life that those arrested for violent felonies, sex offenses or burglary have in all likelihood committed other crimes as well." Redington said DNA collection may help solve other crimes and possibly cold cases. "As the database of DNA samples increases over the years, it may also help solve crime in the future," Redington said.

Getting a DNA sample is relatively simple, requiring a swab from the inside of the cheek. Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish says he supports the legislation, though he admits it does raise issues. "It does create more work for us at the field level," Parrish said. "My bigger concern is the folks at the crime lab, because there will be tons of DNA samples coming in."

Parrish said DNA is "good, sound evidence" and can help solve crimes.

"You know it's true -- if you solve one burglary, the chances of solving 10 burglaries are pretty good," Parrish said.

Missouri already collects DNA samples from convicted felons before they are released from prison. It now 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, 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.

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

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.

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 Associated Press contributed to this story

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