All non-convicted felony suspects and those guilty of misdemeanors would have to give their DNA to police for the first time, under a Wisconsin budget measure endorsed Thursday night. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted 13-to-3 to obtain the genetic makeups of 68,000 more criminal suspects and convicts. Currently, only sex offenders and those convicted of felonies must provide DNA for a state database that helps law enforcement solve crimes.
River Falls Senate Republican Sheila Harsdorf said it’s all about “protecting our citizens,” but Kenosha County Senate Democrat Bob Wirch argued lawmakers should wait for an upcoming US Supreme Court decision on the subject. The justices are expected to decide soon whether Maryland’s law for taking DNA samples upon arrest violates a suspect’s expectation of privacy.
Wirch said the proposal should be considered in a separate bill, instead of being in the budget. He said it’s too important not to get its own public hearing, while Harsdorf argued it’s too important to wait. She said it would help catch career criminals, save lives, and save tax money.
Supporters of the measure call DNA a 21st century fingerprint. The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics say the genetic markers also contain crucial health information that can be used against people, even if laws are designed to protect against it.