Possible Expansion for Virginia’s Criminal DNA Database

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November 14, 2014

When convicted of a misdemeanor your fingerprint and mug shot are put on file, but that file could soon include your DNA.

That's an initiative that Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding hopes to introduce statewide as currently DNA is mainly collected from convicted felons.

“If we collected DNA upon conviction of folks who have been convicted of petit larceny, trespass, those more minor offenses, we would probably about triple the amount of profiles coming into the databank,” says Harding.

Sheriff Harding says this could prevent future violent crimes from happening.

New York is the first state to have an all criminal conviction DNA databank and research shows that offenders linked to crimes in New York had three prior misdemeanors before being convicted of a felony.

“What we're doing in Virginia is waiting until they commit those more violent crimes, those more serious crimes to take the sample,” says Harding. “In the majority of misdemeanor cases, we are already taking your fingerprint, we're already taking your mug shot, why not get the biometric fingerprint.”

“Get the DNA.”

In the case of Jesse Matthew Jr., whose DNA was linked to the Hannah Graham investigation, as well as a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County, Sheriff Harding says if Matthew’s DNA was taken when he was convicted of trespassing in 2010 then it would've been linked to the 2005 Fairfax case immediately.

“It could've had a hit in 2010 and they would've been trying him for that assault up there then,” says Harding. “Again he is innocent until proven guilty, but if found guilty I couldn't imagine a jury wouldn't have given him enough time that he wouldn't have been incarcerated at the time Hannah Graham walked down the Charlottesville Mall.”

There has been some hesitation from fellow law enforcement when it comes to including everyone convicted of a misdemeanor.

Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown explained that "Any expansion needs to be done carefully because it includes a lot more people."

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