PA could soon require DNA samples to be taken from anyone charged with a felony in the state

07 February 2024- Reps. Joe Hogan (Bucks) and KC Tomlinson (Bucks) and Sen. Frank Farry (Bucks) today hosted a press conference on bicameral legislation that will expand the collection of DNA samples in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.

Hogan, Tomlinson, and Farry were joined by Bucks County Sherriff Fred Harran, an advocate for the technology in law enforcement, and Ashley Spence, founder of the DNA Justice Project and a rape survivor.

The proposed legislation expands the number of DNA samples in the criminal justice system by requiring post-arrest testing of anyone charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors. This sample-taking would be no different, practically speaking, than the established process of taking an arrestee’s fingerprints. Nineteen states currently collect post-arrest DNA samples.

The bill would also expand the collection of DNA samples for those offenders convicted of criminal homicide. Under current Pennsylvania criminal laws, samples are required to be taken from those convicted of felonies and other serious sexual offenses, but criminal homicides are their own classification of crime—they are technically not classified as felonies. This legislation would close that loophole and require collection of DNA samples from these offenders to solve other cold case murders and crimes.

“This legislation will provide a critical tool for our criminal justice system to identify and convict frequent criminal offenders including violent predators,” said Hogan. “We will also be closing the homicide loophole so that more cold cases be solved, and families receive the closure they deserve. I want to thank Ashley Spence for standing up here with us today and showing bravery in sharing her story and standing up for victims across Pennsylvania.”

Ashley shared her story of surviving a violent assault and rape while attending college in Arizona in 2003. It was not until seven years later that she received a phone call that there was a DNA match in her case. While attempting to break into a home in California, her attacker was caught, resisted arrest and because that is a felony in California, his DNA was taken during the normal booking process. His DNA was later linked to several rapes across the country.

“After hearing Ashley’s story, I couldn’t get on board fast enough” Tomlinson said. “This bill is a key tool to making sure we keep violent offenders off our streets and out of our neighborhoods. This bill will stop repeated offenders in their tracks, it will leave no question of someone’s innocence or guilt, and more importantly it gives Police the support they need to put these violent criminals behind bars.”

“I commend Ashley Spence for her bravery in sharing her story and her continued legislative advocacy for victims across our country,” Farry said. “One of our goals as elected officials is to ensure our communities are safe and Senate Bill 1078 is not only a crucial step in convicting more criminals, it will also stop innocent people from being convicted.”