New law limits DNA collection in Idaho

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by Stephanie Zepelin

KREM.com

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 6:18 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 2 at 6:21 AM

BOISE -- In a legislative session filled with controversy and tension, one bill made it through the legislature without one dissenting vote.

Senate Bill 1240a, written by Republican Senator Jim Rice, Democrat Senator Elliot Werk, and Republican Representative Lynn Luker, aims to protect Idahoans' privacy by limiting when law enforcement can collect DNA samples.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that would allow law enforcement to get a DNA sample upon arrest. This case originated in another state, but Idaho lawmakers wanted to make sure it doesn't happen here.

"Once we start down the road of simply collecting DNA upon arrest, that's a pretty slippery slope," said Werk. "In Idaho law it is very, perfectly clear now that it's only upon conviction, a criminal conviction, or with a court order."

If you are convicted of a felony, your DNA is collected and put into a national database. Prosecutors also wanted to make sure the bill allowed them to get DNA of certain suspects.

"Let's say that somebody was a suspect in a rape case," said Werk, "A prosecutor could go to a court, with probably cause, request a warrant to be allowed to collect a DNA sample from an individual, and then they could collect that DNA sample."

Senator Werk said the law is important in ensuring certain rights of Idahoans and making sure that arrest alone is not enough reason to collect someone's DNA.

"The idea that DNA is useful in criminal investigations, everybody acknowledges that, but that doesn't mean we should willy nilly go and start collecting DNA samples from the population in the state of Idaho," Werk said. "DNA is your blueprint of you as a human being."

Werk said that unlike a fingerprint, DNA reveals information that some people should not have to share.

"It's a search and seizure of a person, taking an actual sample of your DNA," Werk said. "We need to protect the rights and the liberties of our citizens and restrict the ability to be able to collect DNA."

Governor Otter signed the bill on March 26. The law goes in effect on July first.

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