Attorney General Lockyer Calls New DNA Testing Laws Important Framework for Catching Criminals, Ensuring Justice and Locating Missing Persons
(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today welcomed enactment of landmark DNA testing legislation to help ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system and provide new law enforcement tools to apprehend criminals and identify missing persons in California.
“The new laws expand the use of DNA evidence so that law enforcement can catch criminals as well as help locate missing persons,” Lockyer said. “The new laws also provide an important framework by which innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted may use new scientific techniques to prove their innocence, while preventing the guilty from manipulating procedures to delay or thwart the administration of justice.”
The Attorney General sponsored two of the new laws, AB 2814 by Assembly Member Mike Machado of Linden and SB 1818 by Senator Jackie Speier of San Mateo, and supported the third measure, SB 1342 by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton of San Francisco. The legislation signed today by the Governor were:
* AB 2814 (Machado) permits California law enforcement to use DNA samples to solve serial crimes. Under the new law, the DNA sample of a criminal suspect who has been charged by information or indictment may be compared against all unsolved crimes. The DNA sample must remain confidential, may not be released for non-law enforcement purposes, and must be purged within two years of the date the information or indictment is filed or when the suspect is acquitted or the charges are dropped.
* SB 1818 (Speier) creates a DNA data bank within the Department of Justice for use in identifying missing persons. Kept separately from criminal offender information, the data bank would contain DNA profiles from unidentified dead victims that could be cross-referenced with a DNA profiles from individuals abducted by strangers, persons missing under suspicious circumstances and other “high risk missing persons.” The Department currently has reports of more than 3,000 high-risk missing persons and 2,100 unidentified deceased persons in the state.
* SB 1342 (Burton) provides imprisoned felons the opportunity to request DNA testing in a motion for a new trial. The felon must specify, among other things, how the requested DNA testing would raise a reasonable probability that the verdict or sentence would have been more favorable to the convicted person if the results of DNA testing had been available at the time of conviction. Unless unavailable, the judge who conducted the defendant’s trial must hear the motion and may at the discretion of the court deny the motion without a hearing. The new law specifies eight findings that must be made before ordering DNA testing, including the reasonable probability that, in light of all the evidence, whether admitted or not at trial, that the convicted person’s verdict or sentence would have been more favorable if DNA testing results had been available at the time of conviction.