- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A new state law is taking effect that greatly expands the collection of DNA samples by law enforcement officials.

Beginning Wednesday, local police will be required to take DNA from anyone arrested for a violent felony and send the sample to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The agency won’t process the samples until a judge finds probable cause that a crime was committed.

Violent felonies covered by the new DNA law include homicide, sexual assault, arson, burglary, robbery and child abuse. Samples will also be taken after convictions for all other felonies and misdemeanors.

Previously, DNA samples were taken only from convicted felons and sex offenders. The new legislation was backed by Republicans.

Collecting DNA at arrest can help with convictions while also protecting suspects who turn out to be innocent, the state DOJ said in a news release.

The state DOJ expanded its Madison crime lab and hired more staff to handle tens of thousands of additional samples. The agency already collects about 12,000 DNA samples from convicted felons annually. It expects to receive 25,000 samples from felony arrests and 43,000 samples from misdemeanor convictions this year because of the new law.

Brian O’Keefe, administrator of the DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement Services, said in November that the new law shouldn’t extend wait times to get testing back from the Madison crime lab. The average turnaround time was 35 days at the time.

For privacy, DNA profiles are kept in a separate database from other identifying info such as names, the state DOJ says.

Some form of DNA collection at arrest is required to be collected in 29 states and by the federal government, according to the Wisconsin DOJ. The first such legislation was passed in Louisiana in 1997.

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