The House Judiciary I Committee met today to debate HB1403 entitled “Collect DNA Sample on Arrest.” Last week, Civitas posted an article on its website outlining the philosophical debate within the conservative movement surrounding the bill. Today, the debate continued as interests from both sides were given time to address the committee.
Privacy advocates from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Grassroots North Carolina voiced their concerns. Representatives of each group claimed that collecting a DNA sample prior to conviction without informed consent or a warrant would be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, the ACLU pushed for statutory assurance that DNA samples and data would be destroyed and that the state would initiate the process of expunction.
The committee heard from supporters. Two women, one of which was a representative from the Surviving Parents Coalition addressed the legislators. Both women were mothers of murder victims – the murderer in both cases being a repeat offender. They argued that their children would still be alive today, or at least the suspect would have been apprehended more quickly, had a system similar to that created in HB1403 been in place in their respective states (Florida & Tennessee) prior to the murders.
Via the amendment process, the committee drew nearer to an acceptable balance between the competing interests today by inserting language requiring suspects arrested without warrant to appear before a magistrate, where probable cause can be determined, prior to DNA sample collection. Also, the committee adopted an amendment allowing individuals whose DNA is not deemed appropriate for expunction to appeal the state’s decision to a court for review. Legislators were also assured that the DNA samples and data markers would be completely destroyed if a suspect were to be found innocent and that the DNA markers used in databases would not reveal medical, gender, racial or other personal information.
It is imperative, if the General Assembly moves to pass this legislation, that there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that the Fourth Amendment Rights of all individuals are protected because it is likely that this system, which exists in similar form in over 20 states, will eventually be argued before the Supreme Court. A February 2010 Civitas Poll indicates that 60% of North Carolinians support the premise of HB1403. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper supports the bill as well.