By Hillary Davis, Policy Associate

As of July 1, 2015, you won’t have to be a convicted criminal for the police to take a DNA sample from you.

That’s because a law passed in 2014 requiring DNA collection from people arrested, but not yet charged – much less convicted – for certain crimes has now gone into effect. As a result, if you’re ever arrested for a number of specified crimes, your DNA can be collected, analyzed, and catalogued - even if you have never done anything wrong.

This law, which the ACLU actively opposed for a number of years before its passage, marks just another dangerous step toward the creation of a comprehensive DNA database and undermining our criminal justice system’s presumption of innocence. Previously, DNA could be collected only if you were convicted of certain crimes of violence. Before that, only after conviction for certain sex crimes. Today, innocent Rhode Islanders face a tremendous invasion of privacy, with few protections.

Here’s what you need to know about your DNA rights under the new law:

  • If you’re arrested for a “crime of violence” – broadly worded to include larceny – your DNA will be taken at the time you are booked. At that time, you must be notified of your right to have the information expunged later on.
  • Your sample is generally not to be tested or entered into the database until the police have brought you before a judge.
  • If your charges are subsequently dropped, you are found not guilty, or you have your conviction reversed, the DNA sample is to be destroyed within 60 days. You are to be notified of this destruction in writing.
  • If you are convicted, you may have your DNA expunged from the system at the end of your sentence. You’ll have to file a request in writing to have your information deleted, and may have to file a motion with the court to have any other information destroyed.

The ACLU continues to have very serious concerns about the collection of DNA from presumptively innocent individuals; among those is the concern that individuals who should, under the law, have their DNA removed from the system will not see that happen. If you have questions about the collection of your DNA or are concerned that your DNA has not been destroyed in accordance with the law, you should contact your attorney at once. If you do not have an attorney, you may contact the ACLU.