Lawmakers seek felonies for people submitting others’ DNA samples

The bills build off of a DNA protection law created last year.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed legislation Monday that would create criminal penalties related to handling another person’s DNA data without their consent.

Bills filed by Estero Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow (SB 1140/HB 833) would make submitting another person’s DNA sample for DNA analysis or conducting the analysis a third degree felony. Disclosing another person’s DNA analysis to a third party would also be a third degree felony. Collecting or retaining another person’s DNA sample with the intent to perform a DNA analysis would be a first degree misdemeanor.

Third degree felonies carry punishments of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine and first degree misdemeanors carry punishments of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“There will be serious criminal penalties in Florida for these actions. It will not be tolerated,” Tomkow said in a statement, calling DNA a person’s most personal and private information.

Florida last year became the first state to prevent life, disability and long-term care insurance providers from using DNA analyses for making coverage decisions without their consent. The rising popularity of DNA testing kits spurred lawmakers to expand protections.

That law’s main driver, Chris Sprowls, is now the House Speaker.

“This is the next vital step to protect our residents’ privacy,” Sprowls said. “Representative Tomkow’s bill puts bad actors on notice: If you try to steal or share DNA in Florida, you will face the consequences.”

Other members of Republican leadership are also rallying around the new proposal. Although Tomkow’s bill has not been assigned to committees yet, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican, said his committee will swiftly take up the House version.

Rodrigues filed an identical bill in the Senate soon after Tomkow filed hers.

“I’m proud to sponsor this legislation in the Senate that will help take DNA privacy protections a step further in our state,” he said in a statement. “Collection and testing of someone else’s genetic data without consent is a cutting-edge problem that this bill will solve in the state of Florida.”

State and federal law already prevented health insurance providers from demanding customers hand over the results of their DNA tests like 23andMe or AncestryDNA. But last year’s law added life, disability and long-term care insurance providers to Florida’s list.

Insurers have noted that information gleaned from genetic testing, such as a person’s medical predispositions, could be used to lower insurance premiums across the board. But while insurance companies aren’t yet using that data, that would punish genetic losers who could see a premium hike, lawmakers said.

The bill passed the House unanimously, and the Senate approved the bill 35-3 with Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader and Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Gruters dissenting. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law in June.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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