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New law greatly expands New Jersey's DNA database

Thanks to the DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994, anyone in New Jersey who is convicted of an indictable fourth-, third-, second- and first-degree crime, or arrested for certain violent offenses must provide a DNA sample to law enforcement officials.

This sample, in turn, is analyzed and stored in a database run by the Division of State Police, and ultimately forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which places it in the federal Combined DNA Index System or CODIS.

If this seems somewhat disconcerting, consider that all 50 states currently mandate DNA collection from individuals convicted of certain felonies, while 28 states and the federal government also mandate DNA collection from individuals merely arrested for certain offenses.

In fact, just last week, Governor Chris Christie signed a new bill into law -- S393 -- which will enable state law enforcement officials to secure DNA samples from those convicted of indictable disorderly persons offenses, including:

  • Domestic assault
  • Prostitution
  • Certain drug crimes

Furthermore, while S393 expressly excludes marijuana possession and shoplifting, it also dictates that juveniles are now subject to the database provisions.

According to one of S393's primary sponsors, Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson), the new law will greatly expand the investigative capabilities of law enforcement officials.

“Expanding the DNA database will enhance the government’s ability to prevent crime, solve cases, and exonerate the innocent,” said Sacco, one of the architects of the Garden State's original DNA database.

As you can probably imagine, S393, which takes effect in July 2017, has already been the target of significant criticism from advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, whose New Jersey chapter has labeled it nothing less than a "dramatic expansion" of the database's original intent.

What are your thoughts on S393? Does it go too far?

If you've been arrested for any sort of criminal offense -- minor or major -- please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible. 

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