State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Bill would lower hurdles to collect suspects' DNA

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 14, 2015 4:50 PM
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Photo by Wikimedia Commons

The state Senate is advancing a plan to expand law enforcement's ability to collect people's DNA once they're arrested for certain crimes, but before they're convicted.

The measure would let police and prosecutors collect your DNA if you're arrested for criminal homicide, sex crimes, any felonies, and certain lesser crimes like criminal trespassing and assault.

"This is something where we're already playing catch-up," said sponsoring Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), who points to federal law enforcement and the 30 states that already allow pre-conviction DNA collection. He said it's clearly a necessary tool, both in pinning down bad guys and exonerating innocents.

The plan has cleared a committee and awaits a full Senate vote, but the real test is in the House where it's been stymied by personal liberty concerns on the far right and far left.

Andy Hoover, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said it's troublesome to think police could do the intrusive search necessary to get someone's DNA without having to show probable cause.

"Under state law if a person has been arrested and law enforcement wants their DNA, they get a search warrant from a court. And that's not very difficult to get," said Hoover. "They can get this DNA. Get a warrant."

The State Police and attorney general's office have urged caution on the proposal, since Pennsylvania's sole DNA analysis lab is already buckling under a backlog of cases.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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