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New Law Would Allow for the Collection of DNA From Convicted Offenders

January 17, 2017

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In October, Pennsylvania’s Appropriations Committee amended and re-reported a bill that was originally introduced in March 2015. If passed, Senate Bill 683 could have serious repercussions for those accused of crimes across the state as it would significantly amend current law regarding the collection of DNA from convicted defendants. If you live in or near Philadelphia and have questions about how the new law will affect your rights, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can address your concerns.

Senate Bill 683

In its original draft, Senate Bill 683 required the collection of DNA from arrestees and those suspected of committing a crime. The law would also have allowed for familial searches in DNA databases based on the samples drawn from arrestees. In response to concerns that such a law would violate the civil rights of Pennsylvanians, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill by removing the mandate to collect DNA before a person was convicted as well as the provision allowing for familial searches. Instead, the law focuses on post-conviction collections of DNA, making it mandatory to collect the DNA of all individuals who have been convicted of first degree misdemeanors and some second degree misdemeanors.

In its new form, the House of Representatives claims to have crafted legislation that both balances the needs of law enforcement with the privacy rights of residents. To achieve this balance, the law would also:

  • Prohibit DNA samples from being used for any reason other than legitimate law enforcement identification purposes;
  • Create a process by which exonerated individuals could have their DNA records expunged;
  • Establish a state DNA database;
  • Create accreditation requirements for DNA testing laboratories; and
  • Require continuing education for DNA testing personnel.

Under its current terms, the law would also require the submission of a yearly written report to the Governor and the chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives containing information about the collection and testing of DNA samples. Each report must include specific information, including:

  • The age, race, and sex of those convicted from whom DNA samples were submitted;
  • The fiscal impact on law enforcement of collecting and testing DNA samples;
  • The average length of time between the receipt of DNA samples and the completion of DNA testing; and
  • Recommendations for including additional offenses for which DNA samples must be collected as well as recommendations for the removal of specific offenses.

It is hoped that these measures would restrain law enforcement officers and legislators from violating the privacy rights of both arrestees and convicted offenders.

Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If passed, the new law could require defendants convicted of certain crimes to submit a DNA sample to law enforcement. This makes it even more important for those who are being investigated for or who have been charged with a criminal offense to contact an experienced attorney who can protect their interests. If you live in or near Philadelphia and were recently arrested, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim at your earliest convenience.



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