Va. considers including more people convicted of misdemeanors in DNA database

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s Crime Commission is taking an in-depth look at expanding the state’s DNA database to include more samples from people convicted of misdemeanors.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports the crime commission is studying states like New York and Wisconsin.

Those states collect DNA from anyone convicted of any misdemeanor.

In 2015, Virginia added nine additional misdemeanors to the list of offenses that trigger DNA collection.

Currently, the state collects DNA from adults convicted of any of 14 misdemeanors, which include sex-related misdemeanors, misdemeanor crimes of resisting arrest, stalking and violation of a protective order.

In Virginia, a class-one misdemeanor crime carries a sentence of no more than a year in jail and not more than a $2,500 fine. Either, or both, of the penalties can be implemented.

The Times Dispatch reports the commission will also study safeguards that are currently in place to protect DNA information and will look at costs associated with additional collection.

The study is getting pushback, though.

Citing privacy concerns, Virginia’s ACLU is opposing any expansion of the collection of such personal and private information.

But the parents of UVA student Hannah Graham support the expansion.

Graham was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in September 2014. Her parents believe their daughter would be alive today if her killer Jesse Matthew’s DNA had been put into the system for a 2010 misdemeanor conviction of trespassing.

They say that DNA would have linked him to a brutal 2005 sex assault in Fairfax and that he probably would have been put him in jail, so he would have not been able to kill their daughter.

Virginia’s DNA database has solved or assisted in solving more than 10,000 crimes, including murders and sex assaults, authorities say.

Virginia was the first state to have its own database.

The first database “hit” was in 1993 when a suspect was identified in the violent rape, robbery and beating death of a 63-year-old woman from Dale City.

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