HARRISBURG (October 8)- Stymied by opposition in the state House, the Pennsylvania Senate today made a final effort to expand DNA collection to include people who have not been convicted of a crime. After passing a similar bill last year but failing to win passage in the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended the DNA collection language into an unrelated bill, House Bill 764, earlier this week, and the Senate passed it today.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania criticized both the policy contained in the bill and the manner in which it was passed.
“This bill allows the government to conduct a warrantless search of a person’s body,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “That completely undermines the basic principle that we are free from government searches without due process and without court approval.
“Expansion of DNA collection has failed in the House,” Shuford added, “so the Senate is resorting to playing games at the end of the session to try to get it passed.”
The legislation expands warrantless DNA collection to include people who have been arrested but not convicted of felonies and some specified misdemeanors. Under current law, DNA samples are collected from people after they have been convicted of those crimes.
The Senate passed the DNA collection bill, Senate Bill 150, in June of 2013. While it passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in November, it has not received consideration before the House.
In October of 2012, a bipartisan group of House members joined in opposition to a previous version of the bill, and the House has not considered it since then.
“The House vote in 2012 was a damning indictment of this flawed idea,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “And the chamber’s inaction this session speaks volumes. Our expectation is that the House will continue to stand strong to defend people’s liberty interests.”
With the Senate amendment, the bill now returns to the state House for its consideration.