COLUMBIA - Gov. Mark Sanford on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have expanded the use of genetic information in criminal cases, saying collecting DNA samples when suspected felons are arrested is an invasion of privacy.
"We see this legislation as a reach past that very foundation upon which this country was founded," Sanford told legislators in his veto. He called the bill a "further encroachment on our civil liberties and privacy rights."
The legislation required a DNA sample to be taken when people were arrested for felonies as well as for eavesdropping, peeping or stalking. Those samples could be destroyed if suspects are not convicted.
The governor cited statistics showing that only about 40 percent of people arrested on felony charges are convicted.
His action wasn't surprising given his veto of a similar bill last year. He said Wednesday that government shouldn't have access to genetic information without a conviction, warrant or court order.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, said he was disappointed with the veto.
"I was stunned," he said. "We had worked so hard to alleviate some of the concerns he expressed over a year ago."
McConnell led the legislative charge for new crime-fighting measures at the urging of North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt and Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen.
DNA sampling is at the core of those efforts because of the potential for finding cold hits on old crimes and getting repeat offenders off the streets, McConnell said.
"It is the public's civil right to be protected in their person and their property," he said. "This bill was the single biggest thing that we could do in the battle against violent crime."
McConnell said he will call for the veto to be overturned when the Legislature returns in January, or sooner if the lawmakers are called back to Columbia before the end of the year to deal with budget problems.
The veto was a blow to advocates hoping to allow inmates to use DNA testing to prove their innocence. Already, 43 states allow DNA tests to help free the wrongly convicted.
Sanford applauded that portion of the bill. "If this were the only provision of the law, we would have signed this legislation into law."