Legislator introduces legislation to modernize DNA law

HARRISBURG, PA – House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) has introduced legislation that would modernize Pennsylvania’s current DNA law.

“In order to bring closure to more victims of violence and update our current law to reflect the advances in the science of forensic DNA typing, I decided to introduce legislation to permit the taking of DNA samples from those convicted of serious misdemeanors,” said Marsico.

Since the advent of DNA analysis and its value as an investigative tool have evolved, so has the science for recovery of samples, extraction of DNA material, analysis, and application of results to solve crimes. Today, DNA samples can be taken by a simple swab of the person’s cheek. Usable crime scene DNA can now be identified from extremely small samples of tissue and blood, often with just a few skin cells from handling an item.

Every day, the state’s database and the national CODIS database are successfully used to solve new and “cold” cases, as well as to clear suspected persons who are, in fact, innocent. Yet every day, opportunities to solve serious crimes are missed because a search of DNA databases for a match to the profile of an unknown perpetrator fails to produce a “hit.” Part of the reason for this is that the database, with few exceptions, includes only those convicted of felonies. In many cases, however, persons who have committed serious unsolved offenses fly below the radar with a prior criminal record for serious misdemeanors.

Since there is no DNA resulting from those convictions, the opportunity is missed to have a significant impact on solving crimes that today go “cold.” Just as an example of how valuable DNA from those convicted of misdemeanors can be, since 2012 when the state of New York instituted DNA collection for misdemeanor convictions, there have been 1875 “hits” on profiles obtained just from those convicted of low-grade theft. Of these, matches were made in 357 sexual assaults, 246 robberies, 196 larcenies and 810 burglaries. DNA samples from simple assault convictions resulted in 803 matches, including 295 sexual assaults, 105 robberies and 231 burglaries.

“The expansion of the database in other states has permitted many serious crimes to be solved and an arrest to be made more quickly, in many cases preventing the perpetrator from victimizing others,” said Marsico.  “I feel strongly that this legislation will do the same in Pennsylvania and make our state a safer place.”