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Wisconsin continues to collect missing DNA samples for database

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' effort to collect missing DNA samples is paying off. Currently almost half of the missing samples have been collected. This attempt to collect the thousands of missing samples stemmed from a bill last spring that required DNA samples from all felons to be kept on record.

Law enforcement hopes that this entire process will improve the system that authorities use when collecting and documenting DNA samples. For some accused of certain crimes, such as sex crimes, this concentrated effort could help in their defense to help prevent wrongful convictions. There are severe penalties for sex crimes and DNA can be a powerful tool to establish the identity of the perpetrator.

Several things have been implemented to ensure that DNA collection is accurate and complete. Now when DNA is collected, the system is notified that the sample is in the database. Other agencies can also cross-check to see if a certain felon's DNA has already been collected.

There is also an enforcement process being developed to get DNA samples that are still missing from the database. Currently, individuals who fail to provide a DNA sample after being requested to do so could be arrested.

As stated above, filling in the gaps of the DNA sample database could help individuals who are being charged with sex crimes. Even a mere accusation can significantly impact a person's life. Their relationship with their spouse and family could change and their reputation ruined. Even if the individual is never convicted, the damage has already been done.

Having a complete DNA database can help prevent allegations that may be untrue from causing harm to the accused.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online, "State catching up on DNA samples," Ben Poston, 23 February 2011

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