Police officers would regain powers to collect DNA that a voter-approved initiative stripped away under legislation announced Thursday by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, with the backing of district attorneys and lawmakers from both parties.
“Forensic DNA is the greatest tool ever given to law enforcement to find the guilty and to exonerate the innocent,” Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at an event announcing Assembly Bill 390.
In overwhelmingly approving Proposition 47 in November, Californians endorsed more lenient sentences for crimes like theft and drug possession, reducing them from felonies to misdemeanors. That reduced the reach of a program allowing officers to take the genetic information of suspects arrested for felonies. The Department of Justice estimates Proposition 47 has already diminished the rate of DNA collection by 10 to 20 percent.
Only people convicted of specified misdemeanors would submit DNA under AB 390. It would not affect people who have only been arrested, and it would apply exclusively to crimes whose sentences were affected by Proposition 47, a list that includes burglary, possession of stolen property and drug possession.
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Cooper said his bill respects the will of the voters by leaving the new sentencing rules intact without impeding law enforcement.
“I think a lot of voters didn’t know the details of the law,” Cooper said. “So it’s really not a slap in the face to (Proposition) 47, it’s just making sure folks are held accountable with that.”
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who championed Proposition 47, did not take a position on the DNA issue. “If policymakers believe DNA should be collected from everyone who is arrested that’s certainly a topic worthy of significant debate,” he said in an emailed statement Thursday.
Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.