Pileggi: Bill would update DNA use to fight crime

A bill strengthening and modernizing Pennsylvania’s use of DNA technology to fight violent crime, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-9), was approved on Tuesday, April 14, by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up with DNA science,” Pileggi said in a press release. “Since our DNA database was created more than two decades ago, tremendous progress has been made – but our law has not kept pace. This bill will help get violent criminals off the streets, making our communities safer.”

Senate Bill 683 will require individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples, a process already used by more than half of the states and the federal government. In addition, the bill establishes privacy protections, an expungement process and new quality controls. It also authorizes a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes.

Pileggi cited the case of the killer known as the Kensington Strangler, who was arrested on felony drug charges in June 2010 – but no DNA sample was mandated. “Later that year, three women were found raped and strangled to death. Numerous others were sexually assaulted but managed to escape their attacker,” Pileggi said. “Philadelphia police spent thousands of hours working to solve the case.”

Many months later, the man pled guilty to the felony drug charge and – because Pennsylvania’s law does require post-conviction DNA samples – his DNA was collected. When it was processed, investigators found the match they were seeking. The man was convicted of the three murders and numerous other crimes and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

Senate Bill 683 is supported by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, and the national organization DNA Saves, the release said.

Among its provisions, the legislation would require post-arrest DNA samples from those arrested for serious offenses; establish an expungement process for the DNA records of exonerated individuals; codify accreditation requirements for forensic DNA testing laboratories; and authorize the state police to use modified DNA searches to help investigators identify unknown DNA profiles taken at crime scenes.

Senate Bill 683 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

 

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