The legislation would also seek to eliminate variations throughout
the country in when and how police can access information in the
database, allowing law enforcement to view any lawfully collected
samples from across the nation.
If passed, Schiff said the new law could help solve hundreds of
murder and rape cases.
"This is probably the most important law-enforcement tool we have,
and it's being under-utilized," he said.
Schiff said privacy is a legitimate concern whenever DNA is
involved, but added the legislation would not affect the way in which
samples are taken or the legal process officers must follow to
collect a sample.
"Whatever marginal privacy rights individuals convicted of violent
felonies have, it pales in comparison to the public interest in
bringing these people to justice," he said.
Anything that would improve access to the national DNA database
would be a major help to police, Sgt. Craig Ratliff said. DNA
evidence uncovered by Burbank Police led to the recent conviction of
a 43-year-old transient for a brutal rape at a local video store in
Now that samples can be taken by simply swabbing the inside of the
mouth, he said the process is less invasive and certainly worth the
potential to catch a criminal.
"If a sample is taken and that individual never does another
thing, the DNA sample didn't hurt anybody," he said.
A second bill introduced by Schiff, the Anti-Hoax Terrorism Act of
2003, would make anyone who perpetrates a false threat of chemical,
biological or nuclear terrorism subject to up to five years in prison
and a fine.
Most hoaxes in Burbank are perpetrated by students or disgruntled
employees, Ratliff said. While the department has occasionally dealt
with false terrorist threats against film studios, he said it is very
rare. However, he said the stiffer penalties would provide more
recourse against those who create larger hoaxes. Currently, any
terrorist hoax is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year
Both bills will be considered first by the House subcommittee on
crime, but Schiff said he could not predict when or if they might be