Maryland Officials Seeks To Expand DNA Database

March 24, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: March 24, 1999 — Maryland Officials Seeks To Expand DNA Database


WASHINGTON — Maryland law enforcement officials want to collect the genetic material of almost every violent felon in the state for a database, even though such a grand registry violates convicts’ privacy and could make them into perpetual suspects, the Washington Post reported today.

A bill now under consideration by the state legislature would greatly expand the state’s current database, which now contains the DNA records of a few hundred convicted sex offenders, and make Maryland part of a growing national database, said the Post.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland plans to challenge the bill. Suzanne Smith, a lobbyist for the group, told the Post that the state has made a compelling argument for collecting DNA from sex offenders but has not justified its expansion of the program.

“Something as unique and personal and fragile as DNA should give great cause for concern,” she said. “I don’t think anyone should ever be comfortable that the government is collecting a database of personal information.”

Maryland created its database in 1994, but has required only convicted rapists and sexual abusers to provide DNA samples. Virginia, which opened its database in 1990, already tests almost all felons, including juveniles, said the Post. The District does not collect DNA from prisoners.

Recently, Attorney General Janet Reno convened a commission to study the a proposal to collect the DNA of all arrestees nationally.

In his testimony [use link below] before the commission, ACLU Associate Director Barry Steinhardt said the plan presents a frightening potential for a ‘brave new world’ in which genetic information is routinely collected and used in ways that will likely result in abuse and discrimination.

[Link to Barry’s statement on the future of DNA databases: /news/1999/n030199a.html]

Source: The Washington Post, March 24, 1999

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