Senate panel votes to include all felons in DNA database; bill goes to full Senate
Associated Press Writer
A key Senate panel agreed Wednesday that Nevada should collect DNA from more convicted felons, after members clashed over just how much felon DNA the state should collect in the name of public safety.
Senate Judiciary Republicans who wanted more, not less, DNA collected overturned one lawmaker’s attempt to keep some minor offenders’ genetic material out of state hands in what he called “the age of Big Brother.”
After that clash, the committee voted 5-1 to support AB92, which would mandate the collection of DNA samples from all Nevada felony convicts. That’s the policy law enforcement agencies had asked for in previous hearings, urging lawmakers to join 43 other states which already have all-felon databases.
Under current state law, only those convicted of serious or violent felonies give DNA samples.
Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said he was willing to support an expanded database only if the bill was amended to exempt Category E felonies. That category includes the lowest-level felonies, such as writing bad checks and certain graffiti offenses. The wide scope of creating an all-felon database is an ominous sign, he said.
“It is not difficult for me to imagine that four or six years from now, anyone who gets arrested must give a DNA sample,” said Care.
California, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia have all authorized DNA testing for people who are arrested, and more states are considering the practice.
A majority of the committee agreed with Care’s concerns, voting Tuesday to exempt Category E felonies.
But the Republican-controlled committee overturned that decision on Wednesday, voting 4-3 along party lines to dump Care’s amendment. Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, echoed the concerns of law enforcement lobbyists, who had argued that Category E felons often go on to commit more serious crimes.
“It seems to me to be very anecdotal to say that Category E people are somehow going to become more serious offenders,” shot back Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas. Law enforcement lobbyists hadn’t provided any evidence of such cases, despite his requests, he said.
Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said that wider use of DNA just reflects changing technology.
“You get fingerprinted when you’re arrested now,” said Amodei. “These are the fingerprints of the new millennium. They’re phenomenally unique to each individual.”
The bill now needs approval from the entire Senate before moving on to Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature. The Assembly passed the bill unanimously last month.
The committee also:
• Voted 5-2 for AB107, a measure that would ban knives longer than 2 inches from school campuses.
• Unanimously passed AB383 that would make human trafficking a felony crime, but deleted provisions that allowed the state Tax Commission to revoke the licenses of businesses found to have hired illegal immigrants. Under the amended bill, the commission still can level fines on violators.
• Passed was AB421, which would make it a felony to participate in an organized retail theft ring. Some provisions of that bill were folded into AB521, which increases penalties for certain types of fraud. That measure also passed.