Crime and Justice

Senate approves bill to expand DNA database

Senate lawmakers approved a bill on Friday that expands the number of people who will be required to give DNA samples to the state database.

Under current law, anyone convicted of a felony is required to give a DNA sample. The bill, S.10, expands the class of people required to give samples to any person convicted of a misdemeanor who spends 30 days in prison.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, long an advocate of utilizing DNA evidence said the genetic fingerprint helps to solve crimes.

"DNA helps law enforcement identify and eliminate suspects easily," Sears said. "And so many crimes that seem to be minor have resulted in arraignments in major crimes."

Sears proposed the bill last year after a 2014 Vermont Supreme Court decision struck down a law that he pressed for in 2009 that required DNA samples be taken from suspects charged with a felony — before they were convicted.

Sears tabled the bill after hearing that the state forensics lab had a backlog of 2,800 samples.

The Department of Public Safety told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year that the lab had worked through most of the backlog.

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