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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 3, 2017 03:20 PM
From: Senator Thomas H. Killion
To: All Senate members
Subject: Modernizing and Strengthening the Use of DNA Technology to Better Fight Violent Crime
I plan to introduce legislation which will modernize and strengthen the use of DNA technology to better fight violent crime in Pennsylvania.

As I explain in more detail below, this legislation will increase the crimes for which those convicted of these crimes will have their DNA samples taken. Please note that this legislation only applies to those who have been convicted.

DNA science has advanced dramatically in the two decades since Pennsylvania’s DNA Database was created. Since then, the federal government and more than half of the states have improved their DNA collection and testing policies. Pennsylvania has not. This legislation will make dramatic improvements in how Pennsylvania uses DNA technology to fight crime, to get violent criminals off our streets, and to make our communities safer.

We know the expansion of state databases in recent decades has been associated with decreased rates of murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery and vehicle theft. My legislation will no doubt produce leads in thousands of previously unsolved crimes and bring closure to crime victims and their families.

At the same time, my legislation recognizes both the privacy and fiscal concerns some stakeholders had regarding some portions of last Session’s version of the bill. My bill this Session should eliminate these concerns.

Specifically, this legislation will:
  • Expand the number of crimes for which individuals convicted of these crimes must have their DNA samples taken. This list would include all first degree misdemeanors and more than a dozen second degree misdemeanors.It is worth noting that the DNA samples would not be taken until after conviction;
  • Take effect in December 2019. This delay would give the Pennsylvania State Police the time it needs to expand its DNA testing capabilities;
  • Require the Pennsylvania State Police to submit an annual report to the General Assembly on the collection and testing of DNA samples;
  • Codify accreditation requirements for forensic DNA testing laboratories; and
  • Require continuing education for forensic DNA testing personnel.

New York State provides an excellent example of the important public safety protections that my legislation would provide. In 2012, it enacted a law requiring DNA samples to be taken from virtually every individual convicted of a crime (its prior law, much like our current law), only required samples to be taken from individuals convicted of more serious crimes. As a result of including misdemeanors, from August 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, New York State added 17,545 DNA samples to their database as a result of the legislative expansion of crimes. In that same 11 month period, there were 216 hits resulting from convictions of expansion crimes, linking individuals to:
  • Burglary (90 hits)
  • Sexual Assault (54 hits)
  • Robbery (17 hits)
  • Larceny (15 hits)
  • Assault (13 hits)
  • Homicide (13 hits)

My legislation, when we consider the New York model, will help solve crimes, hold offenders accountable, and protect the innocent from being wrongfully accused or convicted.

Supporters of this legislation include the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, the Pennsylvania State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and the national organization DNA Saves.

While similar to Senate Bill 683 (Pileggi) from the 2015-16 Legislative Session and Senate Bill 150 (Pileggi) from the 2013-14 Legislative Session, which were both approved by the Senate; this legislation, as I detailed above, removes provisions which had caused privacy concerns (such as requiring DNA samples to be taken post-arrest but before convictions and allowing familial DNA to be taken in limited circumstances) and addresses the fiscal concerns raised by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Introduced as SB461