Pa. looks into expanding DNA tests

    A new bill expanding Pennsylvania’s DNA testing is raising logistical concerns for the commonwealth’s acting state police commissioner.

    The measure, authored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, calls for collection of DNA samples from people arrested in felonies and eight misdemeanors. The legislation broadens the scope of crimes leading to automatic DNA tests. It also shifts the timing of the swabbing, from after a conviction to after arrest. (The bill would require the destruction of DNA samples for people found “not guilty.”)

    At a recent budget hearing, Acting Commissioner Frank Noonan said the legislation would increase Pennsylvania’s DNA-processing caseloads by 400 percent.

    “We will need about 35 analysts. The equipment’s very expensive. We would have to consume other equipment, as well as a facility,” he said. “And the one thing–I would just like to caution it is not something that people could say, ‘OK, go and do it,’ and we could just flip a switch. … It would take at least a year for us to get ready. It takes at least a year to train these analysts. So it’s something that–if we do decide to do it, it has to be planned, there has to be a planned growth to our DNA laboratory.”

    Noonan said the increase could cost more than $13 million. A Pileggi spokesman is skeptical of that estimate, saying other states have made similar transitions at a cost of less than $2 million.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.