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New Law Greatly Expands Police DNA Collection In Wisconsin

Critics Skeptical State Can Handle Added Costs, Workload

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment (CC-BY)

Beginning Wednesday, anyone in the state arrested for a violent felony will be required to submit a DNA sample to law enforcement. The new law requiring DNA collection will nearly triple the number of samples the state crime lab will have to keep track of.

Previously, only convicted felons had to submit DNA. Backers of the new law argue collection on arrest will help police solve cold cases, as well as exonerate people who’ve been wrongfully convicted.

But Chris Ahmuty, director of Wisconsin’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter, said it’s not clear the funding for the program will cover the cost of collecting and storing as many as 65,000 DNA samples annually. He said the plan to charge offenders 200 dollars to submit their DNA doesn’t make sense.

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“People who are convicted of offenses don’t pay surcharges,” Ahmuty said. “Local sheriffs are wondering if they are going to be able to afford to do this. ACLU is going to look to see if the state can implement this rather complex system without creating problems.”

But Department of Justice officials said they’ve already hired 19 new staff to handle the increased workload.