If you are charged with a felony in Georgia, you may be required to give a DNA sample if new legislation is passed. As of now, DNA can only be collected from people convicted of a felony or through a search warrant. The goal of the bill is to expand Georgia’s DNA database.
The bill, introduced by State Representative Rob Teihet, a democrat who is also running for Attorney General, would require anyone arrested for a felony to provide a DNA sample at the same time that fingerprints and mug shots are taken.
The bill is being pushed by the Surviving Parents Coalition, a group of parents whose daughters were killed in violent crimes. 3 years ago, Joan Berry, whose daughter Johnia was killed while a student at the University of Tennessee, pushed the law in Tennessee. “The Johnia Berry Act was passed in Tennessee and that same year an arrest was made due to a DNA match, so Jonia’s murderer was finally found,” she says.
The Surviving Parents Coalition says that mandatory DNA sampling for those arrested on felony charges in Georgia would solve murders and keep people safe. At a news conference, Teihet presented data showing that almost 130 crimes could have been prevented in 3 states if DNA had been collected.
Teilhet says he knows that the state budget is lean and the GBI already has trouble keeping up with current DNA tests. “There is a backlog now,” he says. “One of the things we as a state have to do is simply decide that, consistent with our values, this is a priority.” Officials have said that while the biggest downside of the bill would be the cost, in the long run, it would create more criminal justice jobs.
21 states already have laws requiring DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, and Georgia may be the next when Teilhet introduces the legislation. Teilhet says he’s aware that privacy advocates may have problems with mandatory testing, but he has law enforcement backing it as an additional crime fighting tool.