Legislation that would require a DNA sample from those arrested for criminal homicide, a felony sex offense or other violent crimes was the subject of a public hearing before a state House of Representatives committee.
The Judiciary Committee was expected to send the legislation to the full House late last week.
State Rep. Ronald Marsico, R-Dauphin, chairman of the committee, said the legislation would modernize Pennsylvania’s criminal investigation practices.
“Since the General Assembly authorized the Pennsylvania state law enforcement DNA database in 1995, there have been great strides in the use of DNA evidence to bring dangerous criminals to justice,” Marsico said in a statement after the hearing. “In recent years, many other states and the federal government have improved their DNA collection and testing policies to reflect the increased capability of forensic science and the reliability of DNA testing.”
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Vice President Kristen Houser said the legislation would be especially useful in solving “stranger rapes.”
“In most sexual assaults, the victim knows the perpetrator, but those who commit stranger rapes tend to be serial rapists,” she said. “DNA is sometimes the only way to solve the crime.”
But Andy Hoover, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said anyone arrested would forever be checked for involvement in other crimes.
“The expungement part of the bill is very weak,” he said.
Hoover added that DNA collection, when implemented in Maryland, resulted in an additional 13 convictions, despite collecting more than 33,000 DNA samples during a three-year period.
“The payoff of preconviction DNA collection does not outweigh the massive cost and burden of this type of law,” he said.
Others testifying included Cumberland County District Attorney David J. Freed, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association; Bruce Beemer, senior counsel to the state attorney general; Jayann Sepich of DNA Saves, an organization pressing for adopting of the bill; and four representatives of Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies.
— J.L.K. •