Louisiana has one of the most expansive DNA databases in the U.S. Within twelve years, it grew from 12,000 to nearly half a million DNA profiles. Only six other U.S. states have a higher number of DNA profiles in their DNA database. In proportion to population size, Louisiana even has the biggest DNA database. The state moreover has one of the highest numbers of arrestee profiles in its DNA database.
Louisiana was one of the first states to allow DNA to be taken from arrestees. Samples are taken from anyone, including juveniles, arrested on a felony or multiple misdemeanours. While nineteen U.S. states prohibit collecting DNA prior to conviction, a majority of states today collect DNA profiles from arrestees on at least some crimes. But unlike in some other states, Louisiana doesn’t automatically expunge the DNA evidence if no charges are filed against an arrestee or if the person is acquitted. It can only be erased upon request.
But how large is the effect the program has on solving crimes? Some argue that the larger the database, the more likely there will be a match and the more effective it is. According to FBI statistics, Louisiana’s DNA database has roughly been used the same number of times and returned matches at similar or only slightly higher rates than the DNA databases in Alabama and South Carolina, two similarly sized Southern states that both have collected fewer DNA profiles than Louisiana. Professor Lawrence Kolinsky, chairman of the department of sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City suggests, that due to its big dragnet, Louisiana might just have many innocent people in its DNA database.
This raises the question if the state casts too broad of a collection net. Critics say that collecting DNA profiles at the moment of arrest undermines civil liberties, rises serious privacy concerns and weakens constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Many civil libertarians worry the program has gone too far and that DNA is harvested from potentially innocent people in a manner that oversteps constitutional boundaries. „The question is: Do we want the government to have all these genetic samples?“ said Elizabeth E. Joh, professor of law at the University of California. According to Joh, DNA samples can yield increasingly personal information about people and their families.
Source: The New Orleans Advocate