DNA Collection

A measure to expand the state's DNA collection to people arrested but not convicted for certain crimes has passed the state Senate for the third time since 2013. The plan now faces a skeptical House and considerable uncertainty about its costs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), would make Pennsylvania one of nearly 30 states that can take DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes and some lesser offenses -- without needing a conviction first.

The state Senate is advancing a plan to expand law enforcement’s ability to collect people’s DNA once they’re arrested for certain crimes, but before they’re convicted.  

The measure would let police and prosecutors collect your DNA if you’re arrested for criminal homicide, sex crimes, any felonies, and certain lesser crimes like criminal trespassing and assault.

University of Pittsburgh Law School

We've made considerable advancements in the last several decades of forensic science.  DNA testing has given us the ability to pinpoint culprits that may have never been caught just a few decades ago. 

This opens up the possibility for cold cases like the recent trial of the 1979 Catherine Janet Walsh homicide to finally go to court, and for justice to hopefully be obtained for the victims. 

But new evidence doesn’t always mean justice will be cut and dry.

Essential Pittsburgh legal contributor and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, says the most difficult challenge when opening a cold case is tracking down witnesses.

One of the top Republicans in the state Senate is dismissing concerns from the State Police about a proposal to expand the state’s DNA collection is made law.

They say it would necessitate more funding from the commonwealth.

But GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he doesn’t think the people who staff the state’s public forensic labs are “unbiased” in their assessment of how much money they would need to handle a larger workload.