DNA bill passes, dividing Black and Puerto Rican Caucus

The House of Representatives voted 127 to 20 Thursday night for a bill that will allow law enforcement authorities to take DNA samples from convicted felons who are arrested for a subsequent felony.

Opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the bill was narrowed from an original version that would have required DNA samples of anyone arrested and charged with one of 39 serious felonies.

The bill divided the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus as black lawmakers took the lead on either side of the bill. Its lead sponsor was Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, while Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, opposed it as intrusive.

The bill will allow law enforcement to take the samples as “resources allow,” leaving unclear the extent to which the state’s DNA registry will grow. The state has been authorized to take DNA samples from persons convicted of a serious felony since 2004.