Transcript: Should Suspects Hand Over DNA Samples?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 15, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Everybody gets arrested for a serious crime gets photographed and fingerprinted, and while we're at it, why not collect a DNA sample too? Heather Nauert has more on that debate.

HEATHER NAUERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, a lot of states already require convicted felons to give DNA samples to help solve other crimes. California is one state that requires it of violent felons. But now a group of victims rights advocates wants every felony suspect to provide a DNA sample as well. They got it on the state's ballot in November. The ACLU (search), though, is against it saying that all inclusive DNA databases are a potential threat to privacy rights.

I'm joined by Rock Harmon (search), senior deputy DA for Alameda County, California. That's in Oakland. He joins me from there now. And that's a big question, Rock. Is it an invasion of privacy to take DNA samples from suspects, not just convicts?

ROCK HARMON, SNR. DEPUTY DA, ALAMEDA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Not in the legal setting. There's an excellent law review article by a Professor David Kay that addresses the constitutionality of this. So it's really not that big an issue. The only people that have anything to be afraid of are the ones who committed those crimes.

NAUERT: OK. So it may not be necessarily a constitutional issue. Our Judge Andrew Napolitano, I spoke with him earlier about that today agrees with that. However, for many Americans there might actually be a privacy issue where let's just say somebody is picked up on the suspect of having committed a felony, and they didn't really do it, and they get a — their DNA is taken and the government holds on to it. You can see where that might be a privacy issue for some.

HARMON: Sure, and that's why the initiative as well as the other states who are doing the same thing provides that a person who is not charged or the charges are dismissed can have that sample back. So that's clearly a valid point, but it's something that's been addressed in the initiative.

NAUERT: OK. So they would get the sample back eventually. Why don't you give us sort of an update as it how this would work in the state of California and what it would actually mean for cracking cold cases and other cases as well?

HARMON: Sure. Well, you know, nationally there's over 60,000 unsolved cases where we have DNA profiles from them. So what this means is with the adding more people to the database, we will be solving more of those crimes. In California now we only collect from certain violent and sexual offenders. This initiative would add all people convicted of felons and all people arrested for those registerable sex crimes, murder and manslaughter. Right now and then five years down the road everybody arrested for a felony. So there's a long time — long-term implementation to this, but there is absolutely .

NAUERT: I'm sorry.

HARMON: There's absolutely no question .

NAUERT: Let me just give a recap to some of our folks. My apologies. As it now works, violent criminals in the state of California, murderers, rapists, et cetera, have to submit their DNA, but other types of felony convicts convicted of a felon do not, such as bank robbers, is that correct? Is that essentially what you are saying?

HARMON: First degree robbery is one of the crimes that requires people to provide samples now as well as burglary.

NAUERT: So it would basically be expanding it to all felons in .

HARMON: All felons. You know, forgerers, dope addicts, people like that, sure.

NAUERT: Let me just ask you, in California as I understand it now not all DNA is being collected for those hard-core felons. What makes you think this might actually work better if it's not all being collected for whatever reason now?

HARMON: I mean, you are absolutely correct. As we speak, there are 18,000 people in prison who haven't had their samples collected while the prison guards try to hold on to their 11 percent salary increase. So there's no question there's a problem. I believe that the initiative as well as other governmental entities will recognize that we need to do this. We — the public expects us to implement and fund these laws, so there's no question that the more people in the database, the more crimes you'll solve.

NAUERT: All right. Rock Harmon, thanks so much. And, John, they got about 600,000 signatures on this ballot initiative. They only needed about 300,000 to get it on the ballot in November.

GIBSON: All right, Heather, good job. Good to see my old friend Rock Harmon again.

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