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DNA collection proposal modified again

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court decided it is constitutional to take DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes, state lawmakers made further changes to a proposal that would make such collections legal in Wisconsin.

Before finishing their work on the state’s 2013-15 draft budget, members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee made final changes Wednesday to a proposal that would allow collection of DNA evidence from people arrested on suspicion of felonies and from juveniles detained on suspicion of certain sex offenses and other offenses.

Under the new version, DNA samples could only be analyzed if an arrest was made pursuant to a warrant, if a judicial finding of probable cause had been issued or if the person arrested failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. The changes also would require law enforcement agencies to destroy samples not forwarded to the Department of Justice within a year of being collected.

Many lawmakers have said the collections will help capture more criminals and exonerate the wrongly convicted, but critics have said it would encroach on privacy rights.

Wednesday’s changes follow others lawmakers have made to Gov. Scott Walker’s original DNA proposal in May. Changes have included exempting from the collections people arrested on suspicion of misdemeanors and delaying the start of the collections by 21 months.

That last step was taken to given the U.S. Supreme Court time to decide the case of Maryland v. King, which concerned whether taking DNA at arrest violates the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The court ruled 5-4 on Monday that the collections are permissible under the Constitution.

For the DNA proposal to take effect in Wisconsin, it still must be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

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