Writings and observations

WA bill of the day: HB 2588

Striking headline in a Tacoma News-Tribune editorial: “It took Richard Nixon to go to China, Bill Clinton to reform welfare and state Rep. Jeannie Darneille to push House Bill 2588.”

It’s apt, and it could mark a breakthrough. DNA evidence is something relatively new on the civil rights screen, and complex to deal with. DNA can tell a lot about you; it is also a great identifier. It can help convict people of crimes – or clear them. It’s done both. It’s prospectively easy to collect; wherever you go, you may have left some behind.

Clarity at least is needed in this area, and House Bill 2588 by Darneille and others (both parties contributed sponsors) may help. Its digest says it “Addresses the collection of biological samples for DNA identification analysis from adults lawfully arrested for the commission of any criminal offense constituting a ranked felony or gross misdemeanor violation of certain orders.” But it also says the DNA evidence can only go into state and federal databases after review by a judge.

That’s pretty specific, and also seems to indicate when the evidence can’t be collected (short, presumably, of a judicial order).

That the line is drawn by Darneille, D-Tacoma, may give some comfort to people concerned about police overreach. As the TNT notes, she’s a card-carrying ACLU member, “has long been a champion of the underdog. She worked for years to make it easier for ex-cons to get back their voting rights, and she’s quick to challenge any proposed legislation that she thinks might have racist undertones or raise privacy concerns.”

It cleared the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness on January 31, and looks to have a good shot at passage.

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