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June 25, 2017

Pa. lawmakers seek DNA sampling of convicted misdemeanor offenders

With Wolf opposed, bill passes in state House

A Pennsylvania bill mandating DNA sampling for those convicted of a number of misdemeanor crimes passed through the state House this week.

Approved in Harrisburg on a 152-37 vote, the legislation would require cheek swabbing for people convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor and at least one on a list of 15 different second-degree misdemeanors.


The bill was sent to the state Senate, which is considering its own similar bill.

A Senate Republican aide told the Associated Press that one of the bills could get a final vote before state lawmakers break for the summer.

A press release from the office of State Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) touts a bill it says will modernize Pennsylvania's DNA law.

Eight states, including New York, New Jersey and Virginia, have already required DNA samples be taken for misdemeanors.

Marsico said broadening the scope of the state's DNA database would help solve "serious" crimes.

"Many opportunities to solve serious crimes are missed because a search of DNA databases fails to produce a match," said Marsico, majority chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

State law already requires DNA samples for anyone convicted of a felony.

“In many cases, however, persons who have committed serious unsolved offenses fly below the radar with a prior criminal record for serious misdemeanors,” Marsico said.

The expanded testing would go into effect in December 2019, after which it could cost the state an extra $3.2 million per year, according to estimates released by the House.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, opposes the bill as written, saying it includes too many minor offenses.

"Gov. Wolf believes we should expand DNA collection to combat violent crime," Wolf's press secretary, J.J. Abbott, told the Associated Press this week. "However, this bill expands the law to include more than 100 misdemeanors, including many offenses that are non-violent in nature such as retail, theft and littering."

Mike Stoll, chief of staff to state Sen. Tom Killon of (R-Delaware), told AP that the Senate will likely consider amending the bill to omit a few of the less serious misdemeanors. Killon sponsors the Senate bill.