After a lengthy, contentious debate that included accusations of racism, the state House gave final approval to a bill that requires law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples from suspects when they are arrested.
Currently, DNA is collected from people when they are convicted. The bill requires DNA samples to be collected from suspects arrested for violent felonies and other crimes such as stalking. A magistrate would be required to hold a person in jail if they refuse to submit a sample.
The bill cleared the House 83-21.
Opponents objected to the shift in policy that requires samples taken and entered into a database for people who are still presumed innocent.
"The bill suffers still from a primary problem that is a major invasion of privacy," said Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, said the provisions requiring a person who refuses to give a sample to be held in jail go too far.
"A person who's convicted of a minor crime can get bail while he appeals his case," said Michaux, a lawyer. "Here a person who hasn't been convicted, who refused to incriminate himself or give a DNA sample and he's got to stay in jail until he goves one."
After an hour of debate, as the clock hit 2 a.m., things got testy. Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat, asked Rep. Bill Faison, an Orange County Democrat, if the proposal was "a code bill."
Faison had earlier said he believed even more DNA should be collected, possibly at birth, to help stop and solve crime.
"You know better than to suggest for a moment that there is anything racist that I do here," Faison said in a loud and
That led Rep. Angela Bryant, a Rocky Mount Democrat, to rise.
"The racism in this bill is not about the ends we are seeking. It's about the process," Bryant said, adding that black people will be disproportionately affected by the bill because they are disproportionately affected by the justice system. "I don't care how loud you speak. That perspective is displaced on your part."
Hackney banged his gavel and cautioned House members to keep the debate civil.
The bill now goes to Gov. Bev Perdue for her signature.