United States Resources

The United States federal government and the fifty states have introduced and passed significantly more forensic DNA legislation than any other country. The following resources provide background and insight into the facts informing these decisions.

DNA Database Expansion

Convicted Felons

In the United States, the expansion of state and federal DNA database laws to include all convicted felons was a gradual process. While a handful of states began their programs with requirements for DNA submission from anyone convicted of a felony, the vast majority of states started smaller with only sex crimes and violent crimes. Over the years, as the databases continued to demonstrate the public safety impact of including all felony crimes - including, and perhaps even especially, non-violent crimes such as burglary - state policy makers responded by expanding DNA database laws. By (YEAR) all 50 states and the federal government required DNA for all felony convitions. Below are a few historical documents associated with these efforts.

 

Map of All Convicted Felons States
Recently Passed All Felons DNA Bills
Paul Ferrara pie charts
VA study on link to burglary
Preventable crimes from DOJ study
Tracking Chart
List of Sponsors and Bills
Talking Points

Convicted Misdemeanors

In recent years, an increasing number of states have begun expanding their DNA databases to include misdemeanor convitions. These expansions began with the inclusion of certain misdemeanor sex crimes, which is actually a requirement for compliance under the federal Adam Walsh Act (a DNA sample is required from ANY sex crime that requires registration as a sex offender). Iowa now requires DNA from all aggravated misdemeanor convictions, and Utah requires DNA from all Class A and Class B mismdemeanor convictions. In 20XX, New York became the first state to require DNA from basically all misdemeanor convictions.

 

New York Misdemeanors
DNA Database Expansion - Convicted Misdemeanors

Felony Arrests

With the advent of mature, all-convicted felons DNA database, state policy makers and DNA programs began considering additional expansions of their databses - based entirely on the irrefutable success of these programs. The logical next step for most legislators was to consider moving DNA collection requirements from the point of booking, when fingerprints, mug shots, and other identifying information is collected. These policies have been widely supported by the victim community, and especially by DNASaves, a non-profit association formed by the surviving family of New Mexico murder victim Katie Sepich. In fact, many state laws and a federal grant program have been named "Katie's Law" in honor of her family's efforts.

Arrestee DNA collection requirements can sometimes be a contentious issue, with privacy advocates at odds with those in public safeety. However, the majority of U.S. states have found that effective laws can be drafted and enacted which both protect public safety while also safeguarding individual privacy rights. The documents belows provide an overview of the current status of arrestee DNA laws in the United States, along with some of the data considered by policy makers when drafting these laws. Additional information can be found at DNASaves.

 

Additional Resources

Rape Kit Backlogs

Throughout the country, investigations and media reports are finding significant numbers of sexual assault kits that have never been submitted to crime laboratories for analysis. Victim advocates have issued a call to action on this matter, terming it a human rights issue, and calling on policy makers to ensure these kits are tested. At the forefront of this advocacy is the Rape Kit Action Project. This group's website will provide additional details on the issue and options for policy makers.
Backlog of thousands of untested kits in Memphis, Tennessee
Rape Kit Back Log Statute Tracking 2016
Wickenheiser Paper
Human Rights Watch Report on Los Angeles Rape Kit Back Log Issues
Human Rights Watch Report on Illinois Rape Kit Back Log Issues

Federal Funding

Federal funding support of state and local DNA grant programs has been vital to the ability of law enforcement to reduce backlogs and maximize the potential of forensic DNA in solving and preventing crimes. The majority of this funding is made available thanks to the tireless advocacy of Debbie Smith, a rape survivor after whom the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Elimination Act was named.
Historical Funding of Debbie Smith
NIJ Funding

Property Crime

Database costs are often a major subject in the public policy debate about passing DNA laws. Learn more about the costs of database expansion below.
Burglary

 

Familial Searching

Familial searching is on the front edge of where technology meets evolving public policy. Learn about these policies and their success with the links below.

 

Familial Searching Policies
California Policy
Colorado Policy
Virginia Policy
England & Wales Policy
New Zealand Policy
Recent Successes
Grim Sleeper Case
Santa Cruz Rape
Denver District Attorney
Familial DNA Database Searching