RALEIGH – A new North Carolina law is aimed at solving crimes and keeping violent criminals off the street. The DNA Databank Act says DNA samples will be taken from suspects in violent crimes at the time of their arrest, rather than after conviction.
Gov. Bev Perdue said this expansion is necessary. Estimates are that up to 100 cold cases could be solved in the first year this law is in place. Attorney General Roy Cooper said even more importantly, this will help to prevent future crimes.
“Had we been able to take his DNA upon his arrest, we could have solved the other rape earlier and prevented the two assaults that occurred afterwards," said Cooper describing a felon who is now behind bars.
As the law is written, it includes fewer felonies where an immediate sample would be needed, than was originally proposed. But Perdue said this is a step in the right direction.
“I'm really glad to see the first step taken,” she said. “It's for the violent offenders in certain categories of crime. It's better than nothing but, yes, we've still got work to do.”
There were questions whether this law would infringe on personal rights, but the final bill has multiple avenues that would remove the DNA from the state's database if a person is found not guilty, the charges are dropped or a case never goes to trial.
The sponsor of the legislation said he hopes it will actually prove beneficial for people who did not commit a crime.
“It protects the innocent,” said Rep. Wil Neumann (R), Gaston County. “Not only the innocent victims and their families, but also I hope that one or two them are somebody that will be exonerated that has been wrongfully convicted.”
Money was included in this year's state budget to help train law enforcement officers on how to take the cotton swab DNA samples from suspects.
The law becomes effective in February of next year.