State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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House takes its time on DNA collection changes

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 23, 2014 10:31 PM
Thumbnail image for Harrisburg Capitol building with fountain

Pennsylvania is one of a minority of states where law enforcement can take DNA samples only from convicted criminals. One of the issues facing state lawmakers in the waning months of the legislative session is a proposal to expand DNA collection to include people who have been arrested for serious crimes, but not yet convicted.

A measure to expand Pennsylvania's DNA collection passed the Senate easily last year. But it has languished in the House, where personal privacy concerns weigh more heavily on the votes cast both by very conservative and very liberal lawmakers. The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the measure.

"It's a tough issue. It's one where you have some of the civil liberty-type concerns coming from both ends of the spectrum," said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

30 other states have legalized collecting DNA from people arrested for crimes before they're convicted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State police have suggested the measure would cost $7 million annually, in addition to added costs of building a new forensic analysis lab to handle an increase in samples.

Pileggi called such claims exaggerated last November.

"I'm not certain that their analysis is the most unbiased analysis as to how much additional funding they would need," Pileggi said.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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