June 12, 2008

Congress must avoid making arrestees suspects for the rest of their lives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org 

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union urges Congress to oppose an amendment sponsored by Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) that is designed to test arrestees as part of an expansion of the federal DNA program. Schiff’s amendment, which recently passed the House Judiciary Committee, will provide incentives for state law enforcement officials to create a permanent DNA database of arrestees that includes people who are detained on misdemeanor charges, wrongfully arrested and others. 

“Schiff’s amendment encouraging the collection of arrestees’ DNA samples would turn the presumption of innocence on its head,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative Office. “Anyone wrongfully arrested becomes part of a permanent criminal database. Someone arrested for misdemeanor becomes a suspect for life. Americans who have not been proven guilty under state laws go into a DNA database with criminal offenders.” 

Fredrickson predicted, “With this expansion proposal, the federal DNA program will collect and retain DNA from millions of innocent people. The purpose of DNA collection will become population surveillance, not a criminal investigative tool.” 

Schiff’s amendment will undermine the overall bill’s goal of eliminating the current DNA testing backlog, by flooding the database with new samples from innocent people. Representative Schiff introduced this amendment during the mark-up of a bill (HR 5057) to reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program. 

For more information, go to:
/crimjustice/gen/35392leg20080519.html

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