A new state law in Wisconsin goes into effect on April 1 that allows police to collect DNA samples from people who have been convicted of misdemeanors, and those who are suspects, but have not been convicted of a crime.
Under current Wisconsin law, every convicted felon has to submit a sample of their DNA (via swabbing the cheek), regardless of the relevancy or non-relevancy to their conviction.
That DNA has been used by Wisconsin's State Crime Lab to create a DNA profile, which is matched against a database of unsolved crimes. Now, that same databank will include misdemeanor convictions and people not convicted of crimes.
Brian O’Keefe with Wisconsin's Department of Justice, which runs the DNA databank, recently told Fox 6 News, “We will save lives. We will save people from becoming sexual assault victims, shooting victims because of the evidence that is collected out there."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Maryland v. King in 2013 that states can force suspects to give up their DNA on a "serious offense."
The U.S. Supreme Court blog states:
When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold a suspect for a serious offense and bring him to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
Wisconsin authorities claim the DNA samples will only be taken from suspects when there is probable cause in serious cases, and if the suspects are not convicted, then the DNA samples are supposed to be destroyed after one year.
“People who don’t commit crimes are not going to have their DNA in our database, that’s just the way it is,” O’Keefe claimed.
However, there have been false convictions of innocent people in the state, a problem that the University of Wisconsin Law School's "Wisconsin Innocent Project" has been working to overcome since 1998.
According to the International Centre For Prison Studies, the U.S. has more people in jail than any other developed nation in the world.
Sources: Fox 6 Now, University of Wisconsin Law School, U.S. Supreme Court Blog, International Centre For Prison Studies
Image Credit: Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA