Virginia to expand DNA, fingerprint databases
25 June 2018 15:02 GMT

A bill signed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam last week requires law enforcement agencies to include a photograph and fingerprints in reports to the state for anyone convicted of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

State legislators also this year passed two bills that mandate DNA analysis for people convicted of misdemeanor criminal trespassing or assault and battery.

Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety, said he has always been an advocate for expanding the state’s DNA database.

“DNA can convict the guilty. And, maybe even more importantly, it can exonerate the innocent,” he said. “It’s a tremendous tool in our criminal justice system.”

The bills resulted from study by the Virginia State Crime Commission, requested by delegates from the Charlottesville-Albemarle area at the request of Albemarle County’s sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney in the wake of the investigation and prosecution of the 2014 murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

These public safety bills were recommended by the Virginia State Crime Commission, which conducted a study of whether additional misdemeanor offenses should be added to the existing list of felonies and misdemeanors for which the Commonwealth requires a DNA sample from adults convicted of committing those offenses.

During the course of the study, VCSS discovered that convictions for two misdemeanor crimes (trespassing and disorderly conduct) were not consistently included in offenders’ criminal histories, because arrest records including fingerprints were not specifically required to be reported to the statewide database for these two misdemeanors. The Crime Commission unanimously approved a recommendation to require reporting, accompanied by fingerprints and a photograph, for these misdemeanors, which was introduced as H.B. 1266 in the House of Delegates. Senator Obenshain also carried the Senate’s version of this bill, S.B. 566, in the 2018 General Assembly Session.