New Jersey Considers Bill to Expand DNA Sampling to Minor Criminals

Article provided by New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer - Anthony N. Palumbo

Under legislation currently pending in New Jersey, shoplifters, trespassers, and other minor criminals could soon be forced to provide DNA samples as part of their convictions. The proposed law could be a boon for law enforcement, but it could also threaten personal privacy and civil liberties.

New Jersey's DNA Database

The New Jersey DNA Database was established in 1994 and originally required samples to be taken from persons found guilty of, adjudicated delinquent for, or found not guilty by reason of insanity, for certain violent crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, and sex offenses. The databased was then expanded in 2003 to cover persons convicted of any crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree.

The Proposed DNA Sampling Law

Under the proposed law, DNA samples would be required from persons convicted of disorderly persons offenses, including offenses such as shoplifting, trespassing, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana. The legislation would also make it a fourth degree crime for a person to refuse to submit a DNA sample, with penalties of up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Lawmakers in New York passed similar legislation in March, 2012, expanding the state's DNA database to include almost all felony and misdemeanor criminals. Unlike the New Jersey proposal, however, the New York law exempts minor marijuana convictions from the DNA reporting requirement.

Support and Opposition to the Proposed Law

Expanding the state's DNA database to cover minor criminals would improve the accuracy of DNA evidence, increase the chances for apprehending violent offenders, shed light on unsolved crimes, and help to exonerate innocent people, supporters say.

Opponents, however, argue that taking DNA from people convicted of minor offenses is an extreme invasion of privacy. They also say that the burden of collecting and storing these DNA samples could strain the system, rather than help it, with possible consequences including negligence, fraud, and contamination.

Future of the Bill

The DNA sampling bill, S-436, was introduced on Jan. 10, 2012 and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. If not passed this year, it could still be considered next year during the second half of the legislature's current two-year session.

Understanding New Jersey's DNA Sampling Requirements

For more information about DNA sampling in New Jersey or the consequences of being convicted of a disorderly persons offense, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Sources

NJ Senate Bill 436, introduced Jan. 10, 2012

Paul Mickle, "NJ legislator proposes taking DNA samples for lesser offenses," The Trentonian, Apr. 2, 2012

"North Jersey lawmaker wants DNA from those convicted of minor crimes," Fox News, Mar. 22, 2012

Joel Rose, "N.Y. Passes DNA Requirement For Convicted Criminals," NPR, Mar. 15, 2012