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Legislators: Make DNA sampling like fingerprinting


Five Bucks County Republican state legislators gathered on May 30 at the scene of a violent crime solved using DNA technology to say DNA samples ought to be taken like fingerprints — that is, at the time of an arrest.

The ACLU is against the legislation they’ve co-sponsored to make it happen in Pennsylvania, calling it “suspicionless DNA collection.”

State Sen. Frank Farry, R-6, and Reps. K.C. Tomlinson, R-18, Joe Hogan, R-142, Kristin Marcell, R-178, and Shelby Labs, R-143, joined First Assistant District Attorney Ed Louka, Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran, Chief of Lower Southampton Police Department Ted Krimmel and other local law enforcement officials at Comic Collection comic book store in Feasterville to discuss the importance of DNA technology in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system and promote their proposed legislation.

The two bills — Senate Bill 988 along with its companion House Bill 2030 — would expand the number of DNA samples taken by requiring post-arrest testing of anyone charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors — rather than only after convicted, as it is now.

The bills would also require this testing for those convicted of criminal homicide, which is its own classification of crime and technically not a felony under current Pennsylvania law.

In September 2022, two men assaulted, threatened and robbed the owner of the store, but could not be connected to the crime for 18 months. It was through a tip that indicated a long-haul trucker named Caleb Simpson and another trucker were behind the robbery. Investigators then were able to match Simpson’s DNA to the crime.

Farry and Hogan are the prime sponsors of the Senate and House bills, respectively.

During the May 30 event, Hogan likened it to the practice of fingerprinting.

“Nineteen states including Texas and California, along with the federal government, obtain DNA samples post arrest,” said Hogan in a statement distributed by CRIMEWATCH. “It is time Pennsylvania joins these other states to modernize our criminal justice system and keep our communities safe.”

Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, disagreed, saying “this hardly seems like a plan to keep Pennsylvanians safer.”

“These two bills propose a massive expansion of government DNA collection at the time of arrest — even before someone has been formally charged,” Randol said in a statement. “Taking DNA from someone before they’ve been convicted of a crime undermines our basic principles of privacy and due process.”

She added what can be gleaned from a DNA sample far exceeds what can be learned from a fingerprint and suggested it’d put communities of color under “heightened genetic surveillance.”

“Expanding DNA collection to arrestees is not only costly, but would overwhelm PA’s current DNA caseload and add to existing backlogs.”

The Senate bill lists five sponsors, all Republicans. The bipartisan House version includes a handful of Democrat sponsors, including Nancy Guenst and Mary Jo Daley, both of Montgomery County. The bills are in their chambers’ respective judiciary committees.

“One of our goals as elected officials is to ensure our communities are safe and our law enforcement and prosecutors have the right tools to be able to properly do their jobs,” Farry said. “Our legislation will enhance public safety, bring closure to crime victims, and maintain the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

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