July 14, 2015

Senate Approves Pileggi Bill Strengthening DNA Laws

Senate Bill 683 (Pileggi-R-Delaware) strengthening and modernizing Pennsylvania’s use of DNA technology to fight violent crime was passed Monday by the Senate.
“Pennsylvania’s DNA database was created more than two decades ago and since that time, tremendous progress has been made with DNA science,” Sen. Dominic Pileggi said. “It’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up with the science. This bill will make our communities safer by getting violent criminals off the streets.”
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.
“This kind of law has been proven to solve violent crimes,” Sen. Pileggi said. “I hope Senate Bill 683 can be sent to the Governor for his signature this year.”
He 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 taken. “Later that year, three women were found raped and strangled to death. Numerous others were sexually assaulted but managed to escape their attacker,” Sen. 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 current law does require post-conviction DNA samples – his DNA was collected. When it was processed, investigators found the match they were looking for. The man was convicted of the three murders and numerous other crimes and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
“It’s a needless tragedy that so many of his crimes could have been prevented – if Pennsylvania had this law in place,” Sen. Pileggi said.
Senate Bill 683 is supported by the Office of the Attorney General, the PA District Attorneys Association, the PA Chiefs of Police Association, the State Troopers Association, and the national organization DNA Saves.
The legislation will:
— Require post-arrest DNA samples from those arrested for serious offenses;
— Explicitly prohibit DNA samples from being used for anything other than legitimate law enforcement identification purposes;
— Establish an expungement process for the DNA records of exonerated individuals;
— Codify accreditation requirements for forensic DNA testing laboratories;
— Require continuing education for forensic DNA testing personnel; 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 House.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary are available.