In early June, we wrote about the Supreme Court’s decision on Maryland v. King, affirming the constitutionality of post-arrest DNA collection for individuals charged with committing felonies and certain misdemeanors. The Pennsylvania Senate has not wasted any time acting on this decision, and has already passed Senate Bill 150. SB-150, passed by a vote of 39-8, requires that police agencies take an oral DNA swab of people charged with these crimes, supposedly to assist in identifying the person.
As evidenced by the margin with which the bill was passed, many people support pre-conviction DNA collection. Greg Rowe, the legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, calls this type of DNA collection “extraordinarily reliable”. More than 289,000 Pennsylvanians’ DNA identifiers are in the federal database, which has helped to resolve 4,742 investigations. Rowe believes that the practice is constitutional and has lobbied for pre-conviction DNA collection for a long time. Of interest is that even though the purpose of the bill, when arguing its constitutionality, is to provide law enforcement with a fingerprint-like means of identifying who was arrested, the statistics reported correspond only to its use as an investigative tool – not the purpose for which the government argued it was needed.
Criminal defense lawyers and others have taken issue with this practice. Andy Hoover, legislative director for the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes that the practice is an infringement upon our Fourth Amendment rights and predicts that the bill will not get through the House of Representatives. You can read about the questionable legality about this practice in our previous blog.
What do you think about this bill? Are you for or against it, and do you think it will pass? Comment and let us know what you think.