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06/25/2024 01:34 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20230&cosponId=41898
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 3, 2024 09:51 AM
From: Representative Joe Hogan and Rep. Kathleen C. Tomlinson
To: All House members
Subject: Expanding DNA Samples in the Criminal Justice System
 
We intend to introduce a bill which will work to enhance public safety, to bring closure to crime victims (especially those victimized by sexual assaults), and to maintain the integrity of our criminal justice system. We will accomplish these goals by expanding the collection of DNA samples used, much like fingerprints have been used since the 1920s, to identify the perpetrators of vicious crimes.
 
With today’s technology, DNA samples can be taken with a simple swab of a person’s cheek—less invasive even than a standard COVID test and much less invasive than previous DNA samples when a blood draw was necessary. Meanwhile, usable crime scene DNA can now be identified from extremely small samples of tissue and blood, often with just a few skin cells from an offender’s handling of an item. With this scan information, every day our state’s current database of DNA samples and the national CODIS database are successfully used to solve new and “cold” cases, as well as to clear suspected persons who are, in fact, innocent. Yet every day, opportunities to solve serious crimes are missed because a search of DNA databases for a match to the profile of an unknown perpetrator fails to produce a “hit”. This is because those databases are only as effective as the samples they contain.
 
We strive to protect the public from serial offenders, stopping serial offenders before they can commit crime after crime, terrorizing our communities. We also strive to provide comfort and emotional closure to victims or their families by using DNA identification to close open cases. But we also keep in mind the importance of conviction integrity served by advanced use of DNA identification. A sample can prove the innocence of someone else who has been incorrectly accused or convicted and imprisoned for a crime when the DNA ends up matching someone else.
 
The bill will require the collection of DNA samples from persons arrested for serious violent or sexual crimes. This sample-taking will be no different, practically speaking than the established process of taking an arrestee’s fingerprints. Twenty-six states and the federal government already obtain DNA samples from arrested persons. The bill will also expand the collection of DNA samples to those offenders convicted of criminal homicide. Due to a quirk in our state’s criminal laws, samples are required to be taken from those convicted of felonies and other serious sexual offenses but criminal homicides are their own classification of crime—they are technically not classified as mere felonies. Our bill will close this loophole and require collection of DNA samples from these offenders in the hopes of solving other cold case murders and crimes.
 



Introduced as HB2030