The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 675-2312;

Justice Department Finds DNA Collection From Arrestees Overloads Backlog In Crime Labs

States Should Limit Collection To Convicted Offenders, Says ACLU


response to this month's audit from the Justice Department's Inspector
General (IG) finding that excessive DNA collection laws exacerbate
delays in DNA analysis, the American Civil Liberties Union reiterates
its view that federal and state laws seeking to collect DNA samples
from people not yet convicted of a crime are unconstitutional and

idea that DNA collection and analysis are the silver bullet for law
enforcement has been debunked by accounts from law enforcement across
the country," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU
Washington Legislative Office. "This month's audit from DOJ is further
proof that excessive collection and over-reliance on DNA does more harm
than good."

to the IG report, recent advancements in DNA technology have created
increased demand for scientific analyses. That demand has created
massive backlogs of DNA evidence throughout the nation. Overzealous
collection of DNA has made the backlogs even worse.

states have conducted their own assessments on the status of DNA
analysis with similar findings. The Illinois state auditor recently
found that between 2002 and 2007 the backlog in Illinois' crime labs
has tripled, leading to an "inability to arrest suspects." Michigan had
a similar discovery since it passed a law in 2008 to collect DNA from
all arrestees. Michigan State Police Captain Michael Thomas has noted
that the expansion has put considerable stresses on his state's ability
to analyze DNA samples.

inspector general's findings are consistent with what we are seeing in
states all across the country - backlogs are growing and states are
still pursuing legislation that aggravates those backlogs by expanding
the collection of DNA," said Larry Frankel, ACLU State Legislative
Counsel. "This is essentially tossing more hay onto the pile while
still searching for the needle. DNA is not a perfect science and it is
also costly. In order to make our law enforcement systems as effective
as possible, we should limit DNA collection to those cases, such as
sexual assault, that it is most likely to help resolve."

The ACLU also objects to the over-collection and storage of DNA on constitutional grounds.

innovation has huge potential for the advancement of our society, but
when it also opens the door to genetic profiling of citizens still
presumed innocent, it shows its great potential for danger as well,"
said Fredrickson. "Our criminal justice system recognizes that an
individual is innocent until proven guilty. Permanently warehousing DNA
from people not yet convicted of a crime violates their privacy, while
making it more difficult to find those who have engaged in illegal

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666