Oct. 5, 2005 – As part of the reauthorization and expansion of a 1994 law aimed at protecting women from sexual predators, two US senators are asking their colleagues to approve a measure that would place DNA information from people arrested for alleged crimes but never charged in a national database. Exonerated arrestees would have to go through a yet-to-be-defined opt-out process to remove their names and DNA from federal records.
Introduced early last month by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) as an attachment to the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA), the DNA Fingerprint Act would remove barriers to including the genetic material of arrestees in a federal criminal database operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a voice vote that Texas Sentor John Cornyn (R) helped orchestrate, according to a statement by Kylâ€™s office.
The FBI database, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), contains the genetic material of around 2.6 million people, most of them convicted of a crime.
Citing a number of constitutional concerns in a letter to Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) on the eve of the expiration of the 1994 VAWA, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would withdraw support from the Actâ€™s renewal unless the Kyl amendment were removed from consideration. Topping the list of problems, the ACLU wrote, are privacy and due-process violations contained in the measure.
The 1994 VAWA expired Friday. Earlier this year, the House approved the actâ€™s renewal. A Senate vote is expected soon.
Genetic material of undocumented immigrants, detainees in the "war on terror" and a number of others never charged or convicted of a crime would be added to CODIS under the Kyl bill. The ACLU warned that protesters and other activists rounded up while participating in an action and subsequently released could be targeted as well.