The bill's original draft authorizes sheriff's departments to collect DNA from anyone arrested on a felony charge, but that would likely be narrowed to include only those charged with violent felonies. Around 50,000 people face such charges each year in North Carolina. DNA would only be taken from those without a sample on file.
Jailers would collect saliva by swabbing the inside of a suspect's cheek. DNA from the saliva would be entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. The world's largest DNA database, CODIS contains profiles of more than 5 million convicted offenders.North Carolina law already requires those convicted of any felony to submit a DNA sample. Twenty-one states, including Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina, have passed laws requiring collection upon arrest.
A study of serial killers and rapists by the city of Chicago concludes that 60 violent crimes - including 53 murders and rapes - could have been prevented if the perpetrators' DNA had been collected on their first arrest.
Fourth Amendment groups say taking DNA samples from arrestees amounts to a warrantless search. If police believe an arrestee could be linked to another crime, they should present their evidence to a judge, said Sarah Preston, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
"The reality is that under any circumstance when you have any reason to get their DNA, you can get a warrant, which the Fourth Amendment requires," Preston said.
Neumann likens the DNA collection process to taking a suspect's mug shot and fingerprints rather than scouring his home or car for evidence.
"It's not invasive," he said. "It's a Q-tip swab."
The ACLU worries that private medical information could be gleaned from DNA, which contains predictors for mental health conditions. Neumann said the samples would be used for no other purpose than establishing identity and comparing samples to suspect DNA from crime scenes.
If an arrestee is acquitted or if charges are dropped, he could petition to have his record expunged and his DNA removed from the database. Preston said that should worry anyone who's ever been falsely accused.
"A person found innocent is going to have to go through legal proceedings to have their DNA purged," she said. "It sort of turns the principle of innocent until proven guilty on its head. We'd be assuming guilt."