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DNA Collection Examined

A Justice Department panel convened in Dallas Monday to look into the legality of collecting DNA samples from mere suspects in criminal cases.

It's already legal in most states to take DNA samples from felony inmates and convicted sex offenders.

Privacy advocates don't like the idea of collecting DNA information from anyone not convicted of a crime. The fear is that too many innocent names could be collected in a national database, which could be eventually be tapped at lower and lower levels of law enforcement.

"We have to draw lines here," says Jim Dempsey, a privacy rights expert. "We shouldn't be collecting DNA on mere suspects. You see the uses grow and grow until it gets out of control. Certainly there is that fear there."

The biggest hindrance in cataloging DNA right now might be procedural, according to Barry Scheck of the Commission on DNA Evidence. "We are not ready for it at the present time," Scheck told CBS Evening News Correspondent Jim Stewart. "We have 450,000 samples we have collected from convicted murderers and rapists that we haven't typed yet."

Experts say it won't be long before cops on the beat will carry a handheld device that would allow them to test all DNA they find at a crime scene and send in the results from their patrol car. If they get a match, they could have names of potential suspects within 2 minutes.