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New Tennessee DNA Law Difficult for Agencies to Enforce

February 21, 2008  | 

Implementation of a new Tennessee law has stalled due to a lack of funding and confusion over who should collect the DNA samples now required from all those arrested for a violent crime, not just those convicted.

Named after a college student stabbed to death in 2001, the "Johnia Berry Act of 2007" went into effect in January. However, authorities have yet to run any DNA kits collected under the law, let alone enter the information into the statewide database also mandated by the new law.

Kristin Helm, public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told WATE news in Knoxville that the bureau doesn't care who takes the samples as long as they're sent to her agency, but she hasn't received any samples from the Knoxville Police Department or the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

Knox County sheriff's officials say they've gotten some DNA kits, but they're waiting to finish training before they use them. Knoxville police officials say they're waiting on funding.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has received some DNA swabs from other law enforcement agencies across the state, but after spending its own money to purchase 15,000 DNA kits, the bureau is waiting on funding to process them and enter them in a database.

A possible $1.3 million of state funding might be available for the testing, but the proposal has yet to be voted on.

It's not clear when it will be possible to actually implement the new DNA law. 

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