The Idaho Senate unanimously approved a plan to expand its criminal DNA database and test every felony offender in the state. The new state database wouldn’t be up and running until the middle of 2013, when it could then be accessed by local law enforcement officers as well as counterparts in other states and the federal government.
“It is so essential that we fight crime on a basis that can stand up in court,” said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, who sponsored the plan. “This bill puts Idaho at least on par with all other states in the nation that collect DNA on all felony convictions.” Every other state in the U.S. has similar policies in place.
During the Senate debate, Darrington held up the cotton swab that could collect a DNA sample from a felon. Testing all felons would more than double the state’s workload for DNA testing, which would be handled by an Idaho State Police forensic lab.
While the expanded use of DNA testing holds promise for solving cases and freeing the innocent, it also comes with an added cost and wouldn’t offer instant results. The legislation approved by the Senate wouldn’t go into effect until next summer, and it would take a year to train two new forensic scientists how to run the program. “It takes a while to train them,” Darrington said.
The expanded DNA testing program would cost $330,000 to start, plus $418,000 in yearly costs.
Darrington also said the public shouldn’t expect results to be as fast as on television police dramas. He said he likes “CSI: Miami” and that it raises awareness of using DNA evidence, but that the time frame on the show is unrealistic. “It can’t work that fast,” he said.
During the debate, Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, asked if the state should consider taking DNA samples for all people arrested on felony charges, not just those convicted of a crime. Darrington said that would carry a giganitc fiscal impact that state taxpayers wouldn’t be able to fund in the near future.
The legislation now heads to the Idaho House.