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Possible Expansion of State DNA Database

DNATest

House Bill 711, sponsored by House Minority Leader David. J Toscano, D-Charlottesville, seeks to address the pros and cons of increasing the range of misdemeanors to be included in the state’s DNA database. The bill would enlist the assistance of the Virginia Crime Commission to examine existing data from other states that have already expanded their DNA database to include types of misdemeanors that Virginia leaves out, according to the Daily Progress. The bill has broad backing from various law enforcement personnel, including Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding, who helped with the creation of the original DNA database in the 1990s, according to CBS 19 Newsplex. According to Harding, the current database is “just overwhelming, the lives it saves, the potential rape victims it’s saving. It’s in the hundreds and hundreds, and I just can’t let it go. He went on to say that, “Virginia used to always be in the lead. We established the first databank for convicted felons way back, but now we’re falling behind.” Proponents of the expansion argue that if certain misdemeanor offenses were already included in the database, Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, who were kidnapped and murdered by a cab driver, would not have suffered such fates.

Dangerous in the Hands of the Wrong People

Attorney John Whitehead, founder of the civil rights nonprofit group the Rutherford Institute, argues that such a database “can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong people.” Furthermore, he points to the state’s decreasing crime rate as evidence that further policing should not be the state’s priority at this point, and that if such a study is to be undertaken, it should be placed upon the shoulders of an independent group. The bill is also facing criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Claire Guthrie Gastanaga of the ACLU believes that expansion of the database is an invasion of Virginia citizens’ privacy without probable cause, and that there is no evidence that it would further reduce crime, according to NBC 12. “The people who are proponents are moving in the direction of wanting all misdemeanants to have their DNA taken, whether it’s for loitering, spitting on the sidewalk, littering.” She criticizes an expansion of such magnitude because it would also hurt people of color because they are already more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor, she says.

Will I Have to Submit to a DNA Test if I Committed a Misdemeanor?

Currently, the law is such that all people convicted of a felony, certain Class 1 misdemeanors, or juveniles who have committed three misdemeanor sex crimes must submit a DNA sample to the state. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, in order to find out whether you will have to submit to the State’s DNA database, you need to talk to an attorney. Whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, we strongly urge you to seek legal assistance immediately. Contact the Leesburg, Virginia criminal defense attorneys of Simms Showers, LLP today at 703-997-782.

Resources:

lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+sum+HB1617

dailyprogress.com/news/politics/toscano-landes-bill-seeks-study-of-dna-collection-expansion/article_5f5f7d68-0833-5b00-8bcd-752545a8e213.html

newsplex.com/content/news/Virginia-bill-seeks-study-on-DNA-databank-expansion-411127065.html

nbc12.com/story/34364223/hannah-grahams-parents-push-for-expanded-dna-testing-in-va

Disclaimer: This legal alert is provided for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice particular to your situation. No recipients of this memo should act or refrain from acting solely on the basis of this memorandum without seeking professional legal counsel. Simms Showers LLP expressly disclaims all liability relating to actions taken or not taken based solely on the content of this memorandum. Please contact Caleb Kershner or Ben Mann at cak@simmsshowerslaw.com, wbm@simmsshowerslaw.com, or (703) 771-4671 for greater details concerning how this information may affect you.
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