The Growth of DNA Collection From Convicted Criminals

Sidebar to the article Debating DNA Collection by Sarah B. Berson.

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When Congress passed the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000,[1] it approved a new program of federal aid to states to help them clear their backlogs of DNA samples. The law also approved the collection, analysis and indexing of DNA samples from people convicted of federal crimes.[2]

Today, all 50 states have passed their own statutes that require certain offenders to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in CODIS, the federal Combined DNA Index System database, and state databases after conviction. Indeed, many states, beginning with Colorado in 1988, had statutes mandating DNA collection from various offenders post-conviction that preceded the federal government’s move. Often these laws began with a focus on sex offenders (and today, all states collect DNA from sex offenders), although Virginia made its legal debut in this arena with a law mandating collection from all convicted felons.

Congress set up CODIS in 1994 through the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.[3] The Federal Bureau of Investigation runs CODIS, which combines DNA databases from the local, state and national levels. CODIS acts as a central repository for DNA data and allows laboratories across the country to compare DNA profiles. Qualifying offenses for compulsory DNA collection from convicted offenders vary by state (that is, offenses for which a convicted offender must supply a biological sample). Only three states — Idaho, Nebraska and New Hampshire — do not provide for collection in all felony convictions. Most states also require collection following conviction for some misdemeanors.


[1] DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-546, § 3, 114 Stat. 2726 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 14135a).

[2] H.R. Rep. No. 106-900, pt. 1, at 8 (2000), quoted in Haines, P., "Embracing the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005," Journal on Telecommunications and High Technology Law 629 (5) (2006): 631.

[3] Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-322, § 210304, 108 Stat. 1796 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 14132 (2000 & Supp. IV 2004)).

Date Created: October 29, 2009