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Expanded DNA collection of Wisconsin arrestees proposed

Currently in Wisconsin, certain individuals are required to submit DNA samples to law enforcement for cataloging. However, under a proposal submitted by the state's Department of Justice, DNA samples would not only be required from individuals convicted of felony charges, but also from those convicted of many kinds of misdemeanors.

The justification for the collection and cataloging of these DNA samples is based on the idea that if an individual has committed one crime, he or she may have committed another. By providing law enforcement nationwide with DNA samples to cross reference, crimes could be solved more easily.

On the one hand, DNA evidence can exonerate a wrongfully accused or wrongfully convicted individual from erroneous charges or undeserved punishment. On the other hand, the privacy implications of taking someone's biological makeup and cataloging it are troubling a troubling prospect.

Currently, approximately 12,000 DNA samples are collected from individuals convicted of felonies in Wisconsin each year. If the new proposal is ultimately enforced, approximately 68,000 samples will be collected and processed annually in Wisconsin.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has characterized this action as turning "the presumption of innocence on its head." He also recently explained that the proposal raises serious concerns about management of the system and cost as well as privacy. Estimates place the cost of the proposal at $7 million over the first two years. To offset this cost, fines will increase dramatically for those who are convicted of criminal offenses at every level.

These issues are undoubtedly complex. But before this proposal moves forward an inch, it is critical that every single issue is addressed in turn in order to best protect the rights of anyone rightfully or wrongfully convicted of criminal behavior in Wisconsin.

Source: LaCrosse Tribune, "Expansion of criminal DNA collection proposed," Sandy Cullen, Sept. 19, 2012

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