Lawmakers move to protect DNA from police seizure
Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com
"If we don't protect the guilty, we don't protect the innocent."
Caldwell Senator Jim Rice says Idaho law needs changed after a 2013 Supreme Court ruling equated DNA to fingerprints.
"You can see my fingerprints on my fingers,” says Sen. Rice (R-Caldwell). “You can't see my DNA. It's internal."
With the help of Representative Lynn Luker (R-Boise) and Senator Elliot Werk (D-Boise), Rice began drafting legislation to draw a line in the sand mandating that DNA can only be required if a person pleads guilty to or is convicted of a felony.
"We want to make sure that it’s crystal clear to future legislators and to our law enforcement departments here that we're going to collect on conviction only, not when somebody's arrested," says Werk.
Rice says he believes police agencies aren't currently crossing legal lines but the current language of the law could enable future officers to do just that and seize DNA for a crime as simple as driving without proof of insurance.
"You can be arrested for that and they can take your DNA,” he says. “That's the kind of thing that could happen without this restriction in state statute."
Werk says the issue is less about making police work harder and more about protecting the rights of Idahoans.
"My feeling is that there should be a very high bar before we allow for the collection of a DNA sample from an individual in Idaho," says Werk.
In Werk, Luker and Rice, the bill shows support from both parties - an appeal the lawmakers say will make the bill bipartisan and could give it a better shot of passing.
"It's important,” Rice says. “Government needs to stay within the bounds that are set for it in our constitutions."