S.C. House overrides DNA veto
COLUMBIA — Suspects held for felony charges will have their DNA taken at the time of arrest, just as soon as the state has some money again.
The House voted 86-25 Tuesday to override Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of the legislation during a special session of the Legislature.
A pending provision in a plan being finalized now on spending cuts postpones the start of the program until the Legislature has $3.8 million to devote to its creation.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said he hopes the law will help bring an end to unsolved crimes and prevent others from happening.
"DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st century," Harrell said in a statement. "This is one of the most important crime prevention tools we can provide to our law enforcement officers.
"With the FBI ranking South Carolina as the most violent state in the country for the second year in a row, these types of crime-prevention tools are a must for our state."
Another aspect of the bill allows prisoners to request their DNA be taken to prove their innocence. The legislation also gives families of missing persons the chance to have the DNA of their loved ones tested against a database of unidentified human remains.
If a suspect arrested on a felony charge is later found innocent, the DNA sample will automatically be destroyed. Rep. Chris Hart, D-Columbia, said that provision isn't a sufficient protection of individual rights. "This bill is akin to the police not knock-knock-knocking on your door but kicking your door down because they want to," Hart said.
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville, also argued for the House to sustain the governor's veto because he said the legislation is an intrusion into civil liberties, which was the basis for Sanford's veto. The Senate voted 38-0 to override the veto Monday.