DNA Law and Challenges, General Discussion
Albert Williams, Senior ADA, Judicial District 28, Buncombe County
Al Williams, Senior ADA, Buncombe County, who gave the Board an overview of his concerns regarding the new DNA law. Al stated that the legislature passed this new DNA law that allows for a suspect's DNA to be gathered at the time of arrest, for certain offenses; the statue is in the folder for a list of specific crimes. The DA's Office has some concerns regarding the portion of the law that states, if the suspect is found not guilty, pleas to a lesser crime, etc., the DNA has to be expunged from his record. The SBI received seven new positions through this law, but no other agency did. The wording of the law states that the DA is responsible for ensuring that the sample of DNA has been destroyed and expunged from the database, but there is nothing in the law that has a mechanism for letting the District Attorney's office even know if DNA was taken.
AOC has given the District Attorney's some support in building a program that would allow for some notification when DNA is taken, but there are so many variables that are involved that a program needs to address all the issues and circumstances that would require that DNA be expunged from the database. The example that Al gave the Board, is that a suspect is charged with a burglary, arson and a rape, all at one time, in one incident, they are fingerprinted, and the DNA swab is taken at the time of the arrest. The case is heard for probable case and the DA decides that the crime occurred at 5:00PM and the DA doesn't think he can prove burglary, that charge gets dropped, and the arson and rape are sent to the Superior Court to be heard by the Grand Jury. With the program that the AOC is developing for the District Attorney's it will let them know that there is a burglary charge that DNA was swabbed on and it needs to be destroyed, but it doesn't take into account that there are two more charges of arson and rape also associated with this incident. So this leads to huge amounts of manpower needed to confirm with the SBI that the DNA has been expunged and or destroyed. But the law in NC also states that if you are charged with any felony and convicted, the DNA is stored indefinitely. Al stated that this isn't a problem that is solvable by technology, so the District Attorney's are going to be contacting the legislature regarding their concerns and hopefully come to an understanding regarding the wording of the statute in order to perhaps put the burden of expungement verification on the defendant and not the DA; the defendant does it in other states. Al wanted to notify the Board so that if there is additional support needed in the General Assembly to move forward with some changes, the Board will be apprised of the issues and concerns before that happens.