Sunday, January 5, 2014

PA - DNA registry would help solve crimes, police, prosecutors say

DNA databaseOriginal Article


By Melissa Daniels

DNA from criminal suspects arrested in Pennsylvania could be put into a state computer database if law enforcement interests trump privacy concerns during the upcoming legislative discussion.

The state House of Representatives is considering Senate Bill 150, which would require police to collect a DNA sample from suspects arrested for any felony and for misdemeanors requiring registration as a sex offender. The legislation has touched off a debate that pits individual privacy concerns against a desire among law enforcement officials to track potential offenders.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said his proposal would put Pennsylvania on par with more than two dozen states that have expanded their forensic DNA databases in hope of solving more crimes.

It's not a question of if, it's a question of when,” he said.

Pennsylvania collects DNA from individuals convicted of felonies.

Andy Hoover, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said Pennsylvania's proposed expansion might not withstand legal scrutiny.

It's questionable whether or not something this broad would be constitutional,” he said.

Patrick Livingston, a Pittsburgh-area criminal defense attorney with about 30 years of experience, said DNA collected upon arrest could be “jumping the gun.” No burden of proof would be required before the DNA was taken, and it could be used in court as evidence in a way that otherwise may require a warrant, he said.

It raises, in my mind, a lot of administrative headaches in the garden variety case that gets reduced or dismissed,” he said.

The Supreme Court upheld a Maryland law in June allowing pre-conviction DNA collection with a 5-4 decision.

Hoover said the Pennsylvania proposal would collect DNA for more crimes than Maryland's statute.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed the bill, 38-9, two weeks after the high court's decision. The House Judiciary Committee conducted hearings and advanced the bill to the full House.

It can really have an opportunity to prevent some really horrific, violent crimes throughout this Commonwealth, and those tools are there, and they've been deemed to be constitutional,” Bruce Beemer, a chief deputy from the attorney general's office, told the committee.

Law enforcement agencies and victim rights groups support the bill, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Pileggi said he wants to see the legislation on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk before the end of the fiscal year in June. But Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said there's no plan to put the bill up for a vote because many members oppose it on privacy concerns.

Similar legislation failed to pass the House in 2012.

Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Greensburg, was one of two votes in committee against the bill. He said he'd prefer to see the state expand DNA collection to people convicted of theft.

I'm open to look into something like that, as long as we can address both the cost issue and constitutional privacy, freedom, liberty issues,” he said.

DNA samples are processed at the Pennsylvania State Police lab in Greensburg, which also processes criminal evidence from across the state.

Beth Ann Marne, director of the forensic DNA division, said the lab in 2013 linked more than 500 DNA samples to convicted offenders and processes about 25,000 samples a year. Upon-arrest collection would add 60,000 samples a year, requiring staff and space.

Officials at the state House hearing said state police would need $6.9 million a year to hire about 30 staffers, and $29 million to build a new facility.

Pileggi said even if the state did not expand collection, it needs to upgrade its system. As a result of widespread use of DNA, the lab's staff has doubled to 50 in the past three years.

As technology changes, there needs to be an increase of resources,” he said.


Mark said...

Unfortunately, all legal challenges to the taking of DNA before a conviction or after a conviction on various legal grounds have proven unsuccessful in American courts. Yet another case of courts guarding big brother and their pursuit of total personal citizen domination and the gutting of the BILL OF RIGHTS. See, if charged with a crime, they take the DNA upon an arrest and just hope to match you up with crimes you have not been apprehended of. GOT YA! And of course the state advocates for this will weep, and tell the masses about all the unsolved crimes that have to be cleared, and the dangerous persons out there that need to be halted, ad nausea, as justification for taking your blood BEFORE you are convicted. And then, the time will come when they, the state, will force the arrested to PAY for the taking of the DNA process. In Massachusetts only once case was successful. The Dept. of Correction decided to force all prisoners to pay a whopping $110.00 for each taking of DNA. One prisoner sued and won. As a result, the DOC had to return thousands of taken $$$$ to inmate accounts and "un-freeze" prisoner accounts! When prisoners did refuse to pay before the law suit, the WRATH of Corrections came down upon them like Mt. St. Helen.

Mark said...

TRY THE ACLU because they love cases like this. And you may well have good grounds on imposition of more oppressive legal burdens beyond what you were required to do to begin with. The states just cannot keep adding oppressive legal burdens just because they call registration "CIVIL," at their whim without legal repercussions. My question to you is this: "Are you man enough to go and make a legal challenge? Or, will you just go around and weep, moan, and hide while the state terrorizes you with more legal burdens constantly? And there is a percentage of legal precedent already. A wise lawyer can find these and build around those cases. And this will take about 3-4 years when the dust is settled. I dare you!

Furebear said...

You are right Mark, most all the legal challenges have been made, and lost, concerning this erosion of Rights though the use of "Civil Law" instead of "Criminal Law", which is it's true intent and purpose. When the Public mob mentality screamed for the heads of Former Sex Offenders forcing them to Register, most for life, the legislators took the first steps towards removing the Rights of everyone, not just those of former Sex Offenders. For years Registered Former Sex Offenders have been fighting these laws and losing creating the "Case Law" necessary to expand the noose to include more and more Americans. Now these same "Case Laws" against former Sex Offenders will be sited and used to curtail the rights not just those of former Sex Offenders, but will also be used to curtail the rights of many more Americans to create the DNA Registry, and if the State's use of the Sex Offender Registry is any indication of the true intent of a DNA Registry we can look forward to many more Americans being outed Publically for some perceived "Danger To Public Safety".

From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own.
Carl Schurz

bob said...

Take it a step further... tagging / registering every man, woman and child will very likely aid in solving crimes, no doubt. Preventing? Not sure.

The question remains - is that a place you wish to live in?

Bird said...

I assume you meant to say you were convicted in 2003 since you've been on the registry for ten years. And I thought the recent Oklahoma supreme court decision applied to those who move there from out of state too. So I don't think they can, according to that ruling, increase your registration period to lifetime in Oklahoma. See Starkey v. Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections. Contact an attorney or legal aid and ask about this. You may be able to get removed from the registry.

dlc said...


Sex Offender Issues said...

I was going to post comments similar to that in the article. If they really wanted to "protect" people and help solve crimes, then they would force everybody, from birth, to submit a sample of their DNA so when a crime is committed, even if the person doesn't have a criminal record, they know who it is and can go arrest them.

They will claim it invades their privacy, which it does, when they are made to submit a sample, but when it's somebody else, then they are all for it. Very hypocritical.

If you want to "protect" people and help solve crimes, why are you not willing to submit your own DNA?

dc said...

Maybe they should start with all of the police and prosecutors DNA. I'm thinking that would solve a lot of the crimes.