Pileggi DNA Database Bill Draws Fire from ACLU-PA
By Christina Gongaware, Contributing Writer
Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware County), a new bill seeks to increase PA’s DNA collection by requiring samples from those charged with any felony and some misdemeanors.
Currently, samples are only collected after a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction of child luring or indecent assault or with a search warrant. The new law would also include six more misdemeanor offenses: simple assault against a child under 12 years of age by an adult 21 years of age or older; unlawful restraint; deviant criminal trespassing; concealing the death of a child; endangering the welfare of a child; and dealing in infant children. For those exonerated of a crime, their DNA record would be erased.
24 states already have such a law in effect. Pileggi noted that such laws have “proven to have had a dramatic positive impact on law enforcement, in their ability to identify perpetrators of serious crimes and take those criminals off the streets. They have been able to solve crimes they would otherwise been unable to solve.”
“We need to make the best possible use of the rapidly evolving science of DNA evidence to help fight crime and ensure public safety,” Pileggi said. “That’s not happening right now, and as a result criminals are going free and innocent people are in jail. That’s unacceptable.”
Pileggi’s legislation would also permit law enforcement officials to use DNA that has been collected from crime scenes to find matches in the database, with the aim of finding close matches that would allow them to track down relatives of the perpetrator.
Proponents argue that the bill would both help clear the accused of a crime prior to a trial or aid in rightly convicting an offender more quickly.
The Pennsylvania ACLU, opposes the legislation, warning that the constitution does not permit such invasive practices.
“It’s a fishing expedition where the government wants to see if the person may be connected to another crime,” said spokesman Andy Hoover.
The national ACLU has been skeptical of DNA databases for years. In a 2007 report, the organization warned that the role of genetic testing had expanded beyond the constitutional limits.
“Law enforcement’s use of these tools to search, profile and store the DNA of those who have not been convicted of a crime, without a court order or individualized suspicion, has already exceeded reasonable constitutional protections.”