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DNA collection for arrested, not convicted, of serious crimes - abc27 WHTM

DNA collection for those arrested, not convicted, of serious crimes

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

A violent crime scene where there are no fingerprints, but there is DNA evidence that could crack the case: it's reality, not just fantasy or television fiction.

DNA helps solve crimes, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) says it could work better and more often. 

His bill (SB150) would require DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for, or charged with, certain violent crimes. Currently, DNA is not collected until a person is convicted.

"You really can't put a price tag on the lives that would be saved."

Pileggi is sure that there would be DNA matches and, if his bill becomes law, murderers and rapists would be locked up before they could strike again.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico agrees and supports the bill.

"If someone's arrested and we get the sample, it could link them quickly to other crimes that have been committed in the past. It's a valuable tool for police."

But critics ask, at what cost? Defense attorneys and civil libertarians argue Pileggi's bill is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

"You have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures," said defense attorney Karl Rominger. "What the proposed legislation would do is allow anybody to get your DNA at any time by simply accusing you of a crime and arresting you. You are innocent until proven guilty so this would be harassing the innocent."

Supporters argue that it's not an intrusive process at all. A cotton swab of the inside of the mouth for saliva is all that's required. Pileggi says people arrested, but not convicted, give up photographs and fingerprints.

"Some people are of the mistaken impression that if you have my DNA, you have my genetic profile, you can tell how tall I am, what color my eyes are through that DNA sample. So they're just mistaken about the type of information that's being collected."

Supporters are willing to trade a little inconvenience for the innocent to catch the guilty.

"It's not intrusive," Marsico said. "It's a quick swabbie. The benefits outweigh any privacy issues."

A similar bill passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House. Pileggi said he's confident he'll get it to the governor's desk this time around.

About two dozen states have similar legislation. The United States Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on pre-conviction DNA collection and is expected to rule on it in the next few months. 

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