Pa. considers expanding DNA testing to suspects

    Pennsylvania is one of a minority of states where law enforcement can take DNA samples only from convicted criminals.


    One of the issues facing state lawmakers in the waning months of the legislative session is a proposal to expand DNA collection to include suspects arrested in serious crimes, but not yet convicted.

    A measure to expand Pennsylvania’s DNA collection passed the Senate easily last year.

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    But it has languished in the House, where personal privacy concerns weigh more heavily on the votes cast both by very conservative and very liberal lawmakers.

    Erik Arneson, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said the proposal has prompted cost concerns as well as arguments about individual rights — should law enforcement be swabbing people’s mouths for DNA before they’re ever found guilty of a crime?

    “It’s a tough issue. It’s one where you have some of the civil liberty-type concerns coming from both ends of the spectrum, you know, the far left and the far right,” Arneson said. “In the Senate, we were able to get a strong vote. Only eight people voted against it. But I think the House is having a more challenging time getting it together.”

    Thirty other states have legalized collecting DNA from suspects who have not been convicted of any crime, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    State police have suggested the measure would cost millions of dollars more a year, but proponents say it’s an exaggerated claim, and point to the option of a gradual phase-in of the law.

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