ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement in response to the House of Representatives' approval this afternoon of legislation requiring law enforcement to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for certain offenses:
"Expanding the mandatory collection of DNA samples to people not even convicted of a crime is a serious invasion of the privacy rights of innocent individuals. While we welcome the amendments added by the House to provide for prompt expungement of samples from people who are ultimately never convicted, this legislation remains a dangerous erosion of the presumption of innocence.
"As the ever-broadening reach of this law teaches us, privacy-invasive technology rarely stays limited to its originally intended use. We fear this latest expansion brings us one step closer towards the creation of a national database of every citizen's DNA. It is time to rein in technology to protect our privacy, rather than let technology overrun it."
If adopted into law, this would be the third expansion of DNA data banking since Rhode Island began collecting DNA samples. While originally established to collect samples only from convicted sex offenders, the law was expanded to require DNA samples from people convicted of other violent crimes and then expanded again to require samples from people convicted of any felony whatsoever.
The Senate previously passed a slightly different and less privacy-protective version of the bill in March, also over ACLU objections, and the two bills will need to be reconciled. The ACLU will urge Gov. Chafee to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.