Law enforcement officials back bill to expand DNA collection; - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Law enforcement officials back bill to expand DNA collection; others say it's unnecessary


Many crimes these days are solved thanks to DNA evidence. That's why the Iowa legislature is considering a bill that would expand the state's DNA collection.

Right now DNA is only collected if someone commits a felony or sex offense but that could soon change. If the bill is passed anyone who commits an aggravated misdemeanor would have their DNA collected and stored in a database.

The idea of expanding the database has the support of many law enforcement officials, including Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman. He says DNA evidence is extremely valuable in solving crimes.

Jerman believes that if law enforcement officials are able to collect DNA samples from more criminals there will be a better chance of solving cold cases here in Iowa, including many murders and sexual assaults.

"Those persons who are responsible for committing the crimes are being identified," said Jerman. "They're being held accountable for their actions. But most importantly, it's providing closure for the victims who've suffered these types of crimes."

Others say the change would violate peoples' personal liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken a stance against the bill. They believe DNA is too personal to be collected for all aggravated misdemeanors. They believe some crimes, like drinking and driving, don't warrant collecting DNA.

"We're talking about a broad swath, a large classification of lower level crimes that have been classified as less serious for a reason," said Rita Bettis, Legislative Director for ACLU of Iowa. "They have lower penalties, less stigma, and we think that this is just a step too far."

The ACLU of Iowa has been fighting against similar legislation for two years.

"DNA is perhaps the most complete and personal information that our bodies contain," said Bettis. "We think that the government shouldn't have that information unless there is a very good reason."

But law enforcement officials say with a larger DNA collection, more crimes could be solved and innocent people could also be cleared.

"DNA, it's a two way street and I think it's a better way to obtain justice," said Jerman.

If the legislature passes the bill, the law would go into effect July 1, 2014.

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