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New DNA Testing Coming to Pennsylvania

The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has ruled that police can constitutionally collect DNA samples, along with fingerprints, at the arrest of suspects charged with serious crimes. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Senate has just passed legislation to strengthen the state’s DNA laws, similar to the statute validated in Maryland v. King.

First year costs of universal DNA testing of arrestees are expected to run $2.1 million, primarily to expand the state’s police lab and hire six new employees. The phase-in would require police to begin taking DNA samples over a three-year period:

  • First year: homicide suspects
  • Second year: felony sex offender suspects
  • Third year: anyone arrested in connection with serious crimes

By the time DNA sampling is fully instituted, testing will cost taxpayers $13 million a year.

Data from Maryland suggests that DNA sampling is not particularly effective in solving other crimes. In a three-year period, Maryland collected 33,752 DNA samples from suspects. These samples only led to 13 new convictions. Under the proposed Pennsylvania law, state police would submit annual reports to track the efficacy of DNA testing.

Pennsylvania, like most states, currently collects DNA samples from criminal defendants after they are convicted of crimes, not before. This new legislation would expand the DNA sampling without much assurance that law enforcement efforts would be greatly boosted.

If you or a loved one is arrested on criminal charges, contact experienced criminal defense attorneys who can help you navigate the court system and ensure that you are well represented.

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