Attorney General Roy Cooper wants more information in the state's DNA database, and he wants it sooner.
Cooper said this morning that his office will push the General Assembly next session for laws that will allow police officers to collect DNA evidence using mouth swabs at the time of arrest. Under current law, the state only collects evidence once a person is convicted of a felony.
"I believe DNA is like a fingerprint," Cooper said. "It's information about a criminal that goes into a database that helps us keep the public safe."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation follows a similar procedure, taking mouth swabs at the time of arrest, and a number of states have followed their lead and enacted similar laws.
"We'd want to make sure we had safeguards that if a case is dropped or a person is found not guilty, he can have it removed from the database," Cooper said.
The ACLU of North Carolina said that in other states, people have to ask for the sample to be removed from databases.
"It puts the burden on the individual," said Sarah Preston, legislative council for the N.C. ACLU. "They are essentially guilty until proven innocent."
More after the jump.
ACLU representatives say the practice of taking and keeping samples before someone is convicted could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, since DNA contains personal information.
"This is very sensitive, personal information," Preston said.
She noted that courts have only ruled that taking DNA samples from convicted felons is protected under the law.