Boston, MA - The state's district attorneys are pressing Beacon Hill lawmakers to make key changes to Massachusetts' crime laws before the end of their formal session in July.
The district attorneys want lawmakers to expand the state's wiretapping laws, which haven't been updated since 1968 — before the arrival of cellphones, the Internet and social media. They say the changes would help ease the police's reliance on witnesses who can be subject to intimidation.
Prosecutors also want to be able to take DNA swabs of anyone arrested for a felony. Under current state law, DNA samples can only be taken after a conviction.
The district attorneys said under their proposal DNA samples would be taken at the time of arrest and could be used for other investigations, but wouldn't be entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System — or CODIS — until after a conviction.
The House and Senate last year passed versions of the so-called "three strikes" measure, which would require any person convicted of a third violent felony to serve out the entirety of his or her sentence and be ineligible for parole.
The revised measure would reduce some of the categories of violent felonies that would be covered by the three strikes proposal. It also calls for shrinking the zone around schools in which drug offenses carry minimum sentences and removes a provision approved by the Senate that would give enhanced wiretapping powers to state prosecutors.
Opponents said the district attorneys are overreaching both by trying to expand the wiretapping law and seeking DNA samples before conviction.
"It's just not a print of your thumb, it tells about your family history, your medical record, your predisposition to diseases," said Ann Lambert of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said of the DNA swab. "It's a seizure of your information about you when you haven't been convicted of anything."
Conley said that investigators now can only get DNA samples after a conviction. The individual convicted can delay providing that sample for up to a year.