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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Groups protest DNA collection law

The Legislative Black Caucus and civil rights activists criticized yesterday Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan for implementing a new program for collecting DNA samples from crime suspects, accusing the administration of turning its back on hard-fought compromises for safeguards and oversight.

O'Malley made the DNA bill one of his priorities this year and worked hard to win passage of the legislation in the Maryland General Assembly - but only after significant changes during lengthy negotiations, particularly with the Black Caucus. The law calls for DNA samples to be taken from those charged with violent crimes and burglary; previously, samples were taken only after a conviction.

The Maryland State Police issued the proposed regulations to implement the law last month. But concerns from lawmakers have prompted the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review to put a hold on the regulations. The committee doesn't have the authority to overturn the regulations, but it often seeks tweaks during the promulgation of rules.

Leading black lawmakers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the state public defender's office say the proposed regulations don't ensure that DNA samples are taken only when someone has been charged with a crime, rather than at the time of arrest as would have been the case under language originally proposed by O'Malley. They also say the regulations don't adequately address access to DNA samples or procedures for expungement, which would be required when someone isn't convicted. [Mark Godsey]

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