Lawmakers Debate Expanding DNA Gathering and Decreasing Theft Punishments

Lawmaker proposes legislation that could force police to take your DNA if you're arrested for a misdemeanor
Lawmaker proposes legislation that could force police to take your DNA if you’re arrested for a misdemeanor

Two pieces of draft legislation proposing changes to Utah laws regulating DNA collection and theft were introduced to the Legislature’s Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee Wednesday afternoon.

The first bill, proposed by Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy), would modify the Public Safety Code to require law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples at the time of booking for any person arrested for a felony or Class A misdemeanor offense.

“This bill in a lot of ways is simple,” Eliason says. “[It] will help get additional dangerous criminals off the street for crimes that may have never been solved.”

Marina Lowe, Legislative and Policy Counsel for the Utah Chapter of the ACLU spoke against the legislation, saying it’s too intrusive and over-reaching, and may violate individuals’ civil rights. Connor Boyack, head of the libertarian Libertas Institute, echoed Lowe’s comments, saying that including misdemeanors is too big of a step, since not all misdemeanors come about due to violent crime.

After much deliberation, the committee voted against the legislation.

The second bill, proposed by Senator Daniel Thatcher (Republican – West Valley City), changes the section of the Utah Criminal Code relating to the punishment for theft of property or services. Proposed modifications include changing the penalty from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor for a person convicted of theft for the third time in 10 years.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of Thatcher’s bill.

As these are interim committees—rather than the standing committees that meet during the legislative session—unfavorable recommendations do not necessarily stop bills from moving forward, though it does mean that a bill would have a far more difficult time moving through the legislative process.

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