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State Lawmaker Wants To Take All Misdemeanor Offenders' DNA

DENVER (CBS4) - There's a proposal to collect DNA from everyone who commits a crime in Colorado, no matter how small.

The state already has DNA from the worst felons. Now Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, wants to add the DNA of people convicted of misdemeanors. That's more than 33,000 people a year in Colorado.

From disorderly conduct to public intoxication, DUIs to shoplifting, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor would have to provide a sample of DNA if state lawmakers go along with Pabon's bill.

"This bill is going to protect people and save lives," Pabon said.

The DNA would be collected as a saliva swab and put in the state database, which already holds the DNA of felons, giving police a massive genetic lineup.

"It does same thing that fingerprints do, but just in more a accurate, sophisticated way," Pabon said.

Pabon says statistics show people who commit minor crimes go on to commit more serious crimes, and DNA would be a way to both convict criminals and exonerate the innocent.

Even prosecutors are undecided.

"There's no question that having more individuals in the DNA database will lead to the resolution of more crimes, unsolved crimes," Tom Raynes with the Colorado District Attorneys' Council said. "Obviously you have to balance that with concerns of the citizens and communities on, 'What is this? What are we doing with DNA buckle swabs? What does that mean? How intrusive is it to get my DNA?' "

It's not just privacy. Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, worries about the potential for error, calling it government overreach.

"How are they going to keep that swab from getting mixed up with somebody else's DNA? And the potential then for you being falsely accused somewhere down road; not even anywhere around there, but you've got this DNA trace," Brophy said. "I just don't know that this bill has been very well vetted."

"There will be plenty time for the public to comment on this issue, to hear back from them," Pabon said. "But the bottom line is public safety has got to be No. 1 in this building, and I think that's what the people of Colorado are asking for right now."

If the bill passes, Colorado would become only the second state in the country to have an all-crime DNA database. New York passed a similar measure that took effect last August.

Pabon says the bill would not cost the state any additional money because the offender would have to pay for the DNA test.

It will have an uphill battle. The American Civil Liberties Union fought the New York bill and is sure to put up a fight in Colorado as well.

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