Virginia Crime Commission votes to expand DNA testing of misdemeanor convicts


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Those convicted of a misdemeanor may soon have to provide a DNA sample for the state’s databank.

The Virginia Crime Commission unanimously voted in support of expanding DNA testing in the Commonwealth Monday.

The Crime Commission voted to add seven common misdemeanors to the state’s DNA collection database. The misdemeanors range from assault and battery to trespassing to destruction of property.

The state’s crime commission believes adding these offenses could help solve or prevent more serious crimes down the road.

They argue that if this had been in place before, UVA student Hannah Graham would be alive today.

“The thought being that collecting DNA from them will help solve future crimes.” Del. Rob Bell said.

A crime commission study found 70 percent of offenders convicted of a violent felony had at least one prior misdemeanor. Last week, Graham’s mother testified before the Crime Commission in support of expanding Virginia’s DNA databank.

“We always said that we would speak out when the time was right and now is the time,” Sue Graham said. “This is an important issue, an important public safety issue, and of course it is extremely difficult to stand up there and tell my story, but it’s something I feel I have to do in order to protect other young women in Virginia.”

Hannah’s killer Jesse Matthew had been convicted of criminal trespassing back in 2010. Crime Commission Chair Rob Bell said had the DNA database included misdemeanors back then, police would have discovered that Matthew was a suspect in a 2005 rape earlier.

“This shows the benefits of expanding the DNA database,” Del. Bell said. “Had DNA database changes that are being advocated today been in place, Jesse Matthew would have been caught before he committed the homicide.”

Next, the Crime Commision will draft a bill for the General Assembly to consider. The new rule won’t become law unless the General Assembly and the governor approve it.

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