Toward the end of a marathon session that lasted almost 20 hours, the North Carolina House and Senate reached an agreement on HB 1403 Collect DNA Sample on Arrest and both chambers passed the measure early this morning. HB 1403 creates an end-run around the Fourth Amendment and flies in the face of the presumption of innocence by allowing law enforcement to take DNA from all individuals arrested, but not convicted of many felonies and some misdemeanors without a warrant. After an hour of impassioned debate, the House passed the bill 83-21. The Senate passed the bill with Senator Kinnaird the only no vote and with very little debate.
The primary sponsors of the bill were Senator Dan Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg), Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake), and Representative Will Neumann (R-Gaston). When explaining the bill on the floor Senator Clodfelter commented that because this is a new proposal, the list of crimes for which one must be accused to have DNA taken is limited, but if the process goes well, the legislature should consider expanding it. This confirms what the ACLU and others have been arguing all along; taking DNA from some arrestees will lead to taking DNA from all arrestees, then for traffic stops and infractions, until we get to the point where the government can start demanding DNA from any North Carolinian. In fact, Representative Faison commented on the floor that "the problem with this bill is that it doesn't go far enough." he explained that we take blood from every newborn baby and the government ought to start doing a DNA test on that blood and entering it into state database. He concluded his comments by saying the legislature needs to start cleaning up society. His comments easily conjured up images of the "thought police." Representative Weiss, on the other hand, called the measure "1984ish" and said she could not vote for it because of the possible racial implications is has. Representative Kelly Alexander spoke last on the bill, reminding the House that "you lose your freedom a little bit at a time and you lose it to feelings of fear and uncertainty." He concluded by responding to Representative Faison and suggesting that one day the legislature could be considering a bill to allow the arrest of people because they carry an anti-social trait in their DNA and they may commit a crime in the future.
The House did secure some important privacy protections in the bill including a procedure by which the state must remove the DNA and DNA report from the databank and database if the person is acquitted or charges are dropped. This removes the burden from the arrestee to get their DNA removed and is an important protection for innocent individuals caught up by the measure. The legislators who voted against this bill all worked hard to improve the measure. Check out how your Representative voted!