TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to expand New Jersey’s DNA law to require samples from individuals arrested on suspicion of certain violent crimes. Previously, only people convicted of violent offenses had to submit their DNA to the state’s database.
The bill passed in the Senate 33-2 and in the Assembly by a 66-3-9 vote in June. Middlesex County Democrat Asm. Craig J. Coughlin and Union County Republican Asm. Jon Bramnick were among the bi-partisan bill’s primary sponsors.
The new law (S-737/A-2594) amends the state’s “DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994” to require DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of these crimes: murder; manslaughter; second degree aggravated assault when the person attempts to cause or causes serious bodily injury to another or causes bodily injury while fleeing or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; luring or enticing a child; engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of a child; or aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact or an attempt to commit any of these offenses.
“DNA is the most important 21st century crime-fighting tool we have,” said Coughlin. “Its reliability is an important factor in meting out justice both for victims and those who might be falsely accused.”
The FBI uses a system called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) to provide for the storage and exchange of DNA records on a national basis. CODIS consists of a “forensic” index containing DNA profiles from crime scene evidence. It also has an “offender” index, with DNA profiles of convicted offenders. By electronically comparing DNA profiles from those indexes, analysts often are able to obtain “hits” (or matches) between DNA found at crime scenes and DNA profiles of convicted offenders. Analysts also can link multiple, unsolved crimes to a single perpetrator by comparing profiles in the forensic database.
The new law also stipulates that if the charges against a person from whom a DNA sample was collected are dismissed, or if a person is acquitted at trial, they may request to have the sample destroyed, and all related records expunged.
In order to ensure compliance with DNA collection, the law will also make it a crime of the fourth degree for any person who knowingly refuses to submit to the collection of a blood or biological sample. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Critics of the bill argued that it unfairly infringes upon the rights of those who have not been convicted of a crime.