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CONNECTS AGAINST CRIME: DNA Database Expansion
LINN COUNTY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- A new law is changing the way DNA is collected from crime suspects here in Iowa. Previously, the law said DNA samples could only be collected from convicted felons.
As of July 1st, that reach expanded greatly.
You can now include aggravated misdemeanor convicts to that database. Crimes under that category include third degree theft and bodily injury with a weapon. However, not everyone agrees on whether this expansion is a good thing.
Back in February, we took you to the DNA Crime Lab in Ankeny, where criminalists solve cases with the help of the CODIS DNA Database.
They use evidence from a crime scene to get matches or 'hits' with known offenders in the system. At the time, they said it hadn't even reached its full potential.
"The more samples that are going in...It means we're going to get more hits," said Paul Bush, a criminalist supervisor in Ankeny.
They said the impact could be far reaching.
"Not just on cold cases, but on your everyday homicides rapes and burglaries," said Michael Schmit, a criminalist.
Fast forward 5 months later, and law enforcements says the inclusion of aggravated misdemeanor convicts could make that a reality.
"The more criminals you can have in that database, the better we are able to find those criminals when they re-offend," says Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.
The law was passed in 2013, but implementation was delayed so departments would have a chance to enforce it. Gardner says the increased frequency of sample collections shouldn't put a strain on police.
"The process to collect DNA is very simple," he says.
While he praises the change, the American Civil Liberties Union is singing a different tune.
"We think it's invasive and unnecessary and also expensive," says Veronica Fowler, a spokesperson with the ACLU.
The group says the crimes don't justify the action.
"Just because you commit an aggravated misdemeanor doesn't mean you sign away all rights," Fowler says. "We don't think the type of non-violent, non-sexual, low level, crimes are a good enough reason."
Sheriff Gardner says it's not an over-reach, but just another tool for police.
"For people saying it's an overstep, there's a simple solution," he says. "Don't commit an aggravated misdemeanor, don't commit a felony."
There are some crimes excluded from the new law, including second time OWI charges, and agricultural and gambling offenses.