Legislation Assembly members Joan Quigley, Vincent Prieto, Craig Coughlin and Albert Coutinho sponsored to increase law enforcement’s crime-fighting potential by expanding New Jersey’s DNA law to require samples from individuals arrested on suspicion of certain violent crimes has been signed into law.
The bill was approved 67-4-7 by the Assembly in June.
“New Jersey is not alone in this movement. Roughly 20 other states have expanded their laws to include anyone arrested on suspicion of these crimes. This is an important step in bringing wanted criminals to justice,” said Quigley (D-Bergen/Hudson).
Current DNA law only requires samples to be taken from individuals convicted of certain violent crimes.
The new law (S-737/A-2594) amends the state’s “DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994” to require DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of these crimes: murder; manslaughter; second degree aggravated assault when the person attempts to cause or causes serious bodily injury to another or causes bodily injury while fleeing or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; luring or enticing a child; engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of a child; or aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact or an attempt to commit any of these offenses.
“This is a smart move given the fact that statistics show that roughly 40 percent of burglaries and other non-violent crimes are being committed by someone who has already committed a violent crime,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson).
“DNA is the most important 21st century crime-fighting tool we have,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Its reliability is an important factor in meting out justice both for victims and those who might be falsely accused.”
“The move to expand our DNA database works on both sides of the equation. It will increase law enforcement’s ability to track down and convict otherwise elusive, and possibly violent, criminals, while also helping to exonerate anyone that may have been wrongfully accused of a crime,” said Coutinho (D-Essex/Union).
The FBI uses a system called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) to provide for the storage and exchange of DNA records on a national basis. CODIS consists of a “forensic” index containing DNA profiles from crime scene evidence. It also has an “offender” index, with DNA profiles of convicted offenders. By electronically comparing DNA profiles from those indexes, analysts often are able to obtain “hits” (or matches) between DNA found at crime scenes and DNA profiles of convicted offenders. Analysts also can link multiple, unsolved crimes to a single perpetrator by comparing profiles in the forensic database.
The new law also stipulates that if the charges against a person from whom a DNA sample was collected are dismissed, or if a person is acquitted at trial, the sample would be destroyed, and all related records expunged, upon request by an individual.
In order to ensure compliance with DNA collection, the law will also make it a crime of the fourth degree for any person who knowingly refuses to submit to the collection of a blood or biological sample. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Quigley has been working on the law since 2009 with Sen. Nicholas Sacco.
“I want to thank Sen. Sacco for his cooperative efforts on this important public safety concern,” Quigley said. “Together, we’ve worked to make New Jersey a safer place to live, and we hope this effort will continue to protect New Jerseyans for generations to come.”