Madison — In an effort to make sure the most violent offenders are held accountable, Governor Walker today asked the Attorney General to submit a plan to implement the collection of DNA at the time of arrest for some felonies and serious sex-related offenses.
“DNA is the modern day fingerprint. This is a common sense tool that will give Wisconsin the ability to cross check information, identify suspects, and get violent offenders off the streets,” Governor Walker said. “This life-saving policy will also bring justice to families that have been victimized. I would like to thank Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) for their collaboration on this important, public safety initiative.”
Taking a DNA sample from felony suspects at the time of arrest can also lead to the exoneration of those who were wrongly convicted. According to a National Institute of Justice report, 200 individuals have been freed due to DNA collection after they were wrongly convicted.
Under the plan, suspects that are not convicted can request to have their DNA removed from the database. Currently, fewer than ten records per year are expunged from the database due to requests from individuals who later have their convictions reversed.
Twenty-five other states and the federal government already require a DNA sample upon felony arrest. Several courts, including the Ninth District court that covers California has ruled DNA collection at the time of arrest is constitutional.
Governor Walker will work with Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to fund the program and will include the DNA collection requirement in the next biennial budget. While the program has initial costs, studies have shown DNA collection upon arrest can save money by shortening criminal investigation times, making investigations more efficient, and getting potential reoffenders off of the streets sooner. These savings do not include the societal savings by protecting children and families from violent criminals that belong behind bars.