DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill that would require Iowa offenders over the age of 18 who have been convicted of certain misdemeanors to provide a DNA sampling has gone to the desk of Gov. Terry Branstad for approval.
The Iowa House approved amendments made by the Senate, which included the removal of deferred judgment cases as well as offenses related to agricultural production, hazardous waste and gaming and betting, in a 84-15 vote last week. Currently, only those convicted of a felony or sexual offense are required to provide a DNA sampling for the federal database.
Under HF 527, certain aggravated misdemeanor convictions or thefts would warrant a DNA sampling to be sent to the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Proponents of the bill believe the procedure will assist in preventing future crimes while also exonerating those who have been wrongfully convicted. Representative, Jarad Klein, R-Keota, managed the bill on the House floor and led the debate.
“Once DNA is entered in to CODIS it can be compared with DNA profiles from laboratories across the nation to search for potential matches. If a match is found, the reporting agencies are informed and can then begin work on solving previously unsolved cases,” Klein said in a statement. “DNA profiling has also been used to exonerate individuals previously convicted of crimes when DNA has been taken from the scene.”
CODIS samplings are under heavy regulation, Klein said, with only a limited number of personnel allowed access to filings.
A similar bill had passed the state’s Senate last year but was halted in the House. Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines, said she has worked on the bill for the past three years and believes that this bill is the most complete and beneficial piece of legislation she has seen.
“It looks much better than it has in the three years that I’ve been here,” she said.
The attorney general’s office and the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association has expressed support for the bill while civil rights groups, such as the ACLU of Iowa, has said the bill would be an unnecessary invasion of privacy.
“We think this bill goes against a common sense approach that Iowa prides itself on,” said Rita Bettis, legislative director and staff attorney for the ACLU of Iowa told The Gazette. “We think it’s unnecessary and expensive and is going to put thousands of more Iowans’ DNA in a database every year – where it will remain after they’re dead – for low-level offenses.”
The cost for each DNA sampling is about $27 per person with a total estimated cost of $351,000 each year.