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Maryland wanting to expand DNA collection laws

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With expectations of lowering the crime rate, Maryland seeks to be the 12th state to enact a bill that would expand current forensic DNA testing of criminal suspects. The amended law would require suspects that are arrested of a violent crime or burglary to submit a DNA sample to the state’s forensic laboratory. Current state laws only require individuals convicted of a felony and certain misdemeanors to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement officials.

Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley, announced that he would endorse the necessary legislation to increase the DNA databasing laws. According to Governor O’Malley, Maryland has the fifth highest rate of violent crime in the nation. He hopes that by making it mandatory to collect DNA samples of those arrested, as well as convicted and complete forensic DNA testing, it would help law enforcement solve old cases and possibly exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals.

There has been a substantial nationwide increase to improve laws governing DNA testing. In 2006, 11 states introduced arrestee legislation, and in 2007 that number grew to 26 states. Of the 26 states to propose new legislation, only 4 states amended their laws to include forensic DNA testing of arrestees. Those numbers send a clear message that there is concern and hesitation among communities to enact the proposed legislation. The director of The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland was quoted as saying that the ACLU believes arrestee DNA testing could violate constitutional rights. The concern is that an arrestee isn’t convicted of a crime yet, and therefore forensic DNA testing could fall under unreasonable search and seizure.

Governor O’Malley has begun to build support for the legislation from supporters such as Republican House Delegate. Christopher B Shank who was quoted as saying, “It was a common sense measure to protect public safety.” Shank also brought to light that legislation for forensic DNA testing of arrestees was proposed in 2007 as well, but failed to pass. The reason for opposition, however, wasn’t because of privacy issues, but instead because there was concern with the cost associated with the additional DNA testing.

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