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Pennsylvania considering new DNA laws

A recent Supreme Court holding is trickling down to Pennsylvania. In that holding, Maryland v. King, the Supreme Court found that DNA samples taken after an arrest can have a dramatic impact. One of the most important outcomes of these samples: helping put criminals in prison.

The Kensington Strangler provides a local example of how useful DNA technology can be. In that case, the perpetrator was arrested for drug crime violations. After his conviction he was required to provide a DNA sample. Based on this sample, matches were found for unsolved strangulation, rape and murder cases. The most frustrating part of this story? Had a DNA sample been taken when the man was arrested instead of waiting until he was convicted of the drug crimes, lives may have been saved.

Stories of victims of violent crimes like this are fueling the passage of a new bill. The bill, Senate Bill 150, is designed to reduce the risk of violent offenses by allowing enforcement officers to take DNA samples after arrest instead of having to wait for a conviction.

If passed, the bill will update Pennsylvania's current DNA laws. Portions of the bill will ensure that DNA samples are taken for those arrested under suspicion of committing serious offenses. The bill will also work to prohibit use of these samples for anything other than enforcement purposes and will also establish an expungement process for those exonerated of these crimes.

Victims of violent crimes may find a certain level of peace when the perpetrator is caught. This bill may help make that happen. Those convicted of violent crimes face penalties in both criminal and civil suits.

Source: WHPTV News, "Senate passes bill which would strengthen PA's DNA laws," June 18, 2013

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