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Pennsylvania considering legislation to collect DNA samples upon arrest

Law enforcement in Pennsylvania use many tools to help them track down people who may be guilty of a crime. Although it’s their job to find and arrest people who have committed sex crimes, drug crimes, and other serious offenses, it’s also important for them to follow the limits established in the state and federal constitutions.

For many Pennsylvanians, it is acceptable for law enforcement to keep records of people’s fingerprints to identify repeat offenders, which has been common practice for several decades. The more recent practice of collecting people’s DNA, however, has sparked some criticism. The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a law that would enable law enforcement to collect DNA samples of people who are charged with a crime, even though he may later be proven innocent of the crime.

Supporters of the measure argue that collecting DNA samples from more people will increase the likelihood of preventing future crimes. Other people, on the other hand, argue that a person’s DNA is a part of his medical records, which law enforcement cannot obtain without a warrant. In addition, the measure would come with a high cost for Pennsylvania taxpayers. Its estimated cost is about $27 million, which includes the construction of a new laboratory as well as hiring additional personnel.

Under the current law, law enforcement has the authority to collect DNA samples, but only for people who have already been convicted of a crime. Anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense, such as solicitation or child pornography, or any other serious crime may want to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Morning Call, “Bill: You’re under arrest, we’ll need your DNA,” Peter Hall, Nov. 30, 2013

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