U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Utah DNA sampling bill


A bill that would require those arrested on felony charges to provide a DNA sample moved out of committee to the full House after a legal expert and victim advocate Ed Smart, father of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart, voiced support for the bill.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, presented HB212  Monday, Feb. 10, to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, explaining that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision clarifies the constitutionality of the bill. The bill is on the list of bills to be debated by the House of Representatives.

Eliason introduced a similar bill in 2013 hat did not clear a committee.

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Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, chats about DNA bill after committee hearing.

“I amended the bill and changed it based on the concerns I heard from a few committee members … this revised bill only focuses on felon arrestee’s,” he said

The bill, as previously drafted, included provisions for DNA samples to be taken from arrestees involved in class-A misdemeanors, but the new version does not.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case Maryland v. King, the Court held, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like finger printing and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the fourth amendment.” The Supreme Court issued its decision after the Utah Legislature closed in 2013.

Paul Cassell, a criminal law professor at the University of Utah and former federal judge for the district of Utah, testified on behalf of the bill.

“DNA sampling is the 21st Century equivalent of fingerprinting,” Cassell said.  He noted that, DNA sampling is important to apprehending dangerous criminals and sampling will allow law enforcement agencies to quickly identify rapists and other dangerous criminals.

Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart also testified in behalf of the bill.

“The importance of this bill is that criminals will be caught and there will be less crime on the street,” Smart said. “The importance of this bill is the resolution of many cold cases and other crimes that are currently happening out there.”

Eliason said, if passed, the law would go into effect May 13 through Dec. 31, 2014, making it legal for police to take samples of any person arrested on felony charges. After Jan. 1, 2015 the law will require law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples at the time of booking for a person arrested on a felony offense.

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