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Schiff bills tackle DNA and hoaxes

Ben Godar

Two crime-related bills introduced recently by Rep. Adam Schiff

(D-Burbank) would broaden police access to DNA information and make

creating a terrorist hoax a federal crime.

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The DNA Database Enhancement Act would expand collection of DNA to

all people convicted of a violent felony. Current federal law

requires collection from only those convicted of violent sex crimes.

The legislation would also seek to eliminate variations throughout

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the country in when and how police can access information in the

database, allowing law enforcement to view any lawfully collected

samples from across the nation.

If passed, Schiff said the new law could help solve hundreds of

murder and rape cases.

“This is probably the most important law-enforcement tool we have,

and it’s being under-utilized,” he said.

Schiff said privacy is a legitimate concern whenever DNA is

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involved, but added the legislation would not affect the way in which

samples are taken or the legal process officers must follow to

collect a sample.

“Whatever marginal privacy rights individuals convicted of violent

felonies have, it pales in comparison to the public interest in

bringing these people to justice,” he said.

Anything that would improve access to the national DNA database

would be a major help to police, Sgt. Craig Ratliff said. DNA

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evidence uncovered by Burbank Police led to the recent conviction of

a 43-year-old transient for a brutal rape at a local video store in

2000.

Now that samples can be taken by simply swabbing the inside of the

mouth, he said the process is less invasive and certainly worth the

potential to catch a criminal.

“If a sample is taken and that individual never does another

thing, the DNA sample didn’t hurt anybody,” he said.

A second bill introduced by Schiff, the Anti-Hoax Terrorism Act of

2003, would make anyone who perpetrates a false threat of chemical,

biological or nuclear terrorism subject to up to five years in prison

and a fine.

Most hoaxes in Burbank are perpetrated by students or disgruntled

employees, Ratliff said. While the department has occasionally dealt

with false terrorist threats against film studios, he said it is very

rare. However, he said the stiffer penalties would provide more

recourse against those who create larger hoaxes. Currently, any

terrorist hoax is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year

in prison.

Both bills will be considered first by the House subcommittee on

crime, but Schiff said he could not predict when or if they might be

formally adopted.


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