– Two pieces of legislation authored by Rep. Tedd Nesbit (R-Mercer/Butler) to update the state’s laws with respect to DNA collection and use in the criminal justice system have been forwarded to the state Senate after being approved by the state House on Wednesday.
“The advancement of DNA technology has been critical in ensuring that the right criminals are behind bars,” said Nesbit, a former assistant district attorney and member of the House Judiciary Committee. “DNA evidence left at the scene not only helps to convict the individual who committed the crime but also helps to exonerate those who may have nothing to do with it but have been caught up in the system.
“Making updates to our state laws to ensure proper use and sharing of DNA will allow law enforcement and prosecutors to ensure due process while also saving taxpayer money,” Nesbit added. “We have drafted these bills to ensure that specific processes are followed so that justice is still carried out. I appreciate my colleagues for recognizing the value of this legislation and giving it affirmative votes.”
The bills authored by Nesbit, which passed the House this week, include:
- House Bill 2307, which would help innocent people present new evidence challenging their wrongful convictions, whether through newly available DNA or other types of evidence. The measure also would extend the period within which a petition for post-conviction relief based on newly discovered evidence must be filed, from the current 60 days from the date the claim could have been presented, to one year. Finally, the bill would establish standards of conduct of investigators and others working on behalf of a defendant or the defendant’s counsel.
- House Bill 2308, which would modify the process for a defendant to file a petition for DNA testing by eliminating the requirement that the person who requests testing be serving a term of imprisonment or awaiting execution after being sentenced to death; expanding the current requirement that the defendant show that DNA technology was not available to test evidence discovered prior to trial; and permitting testing to be done at any time if the motion is timely and made for the purpose of demonstrating actual innocence and not to delay execution of the sentence or the administration of justice.
To view Rep. Nesbit’s video comments after House passage of the bills, click here
Under current law, DNA samples are required to be collected from persons convicted, adjudicated delinquent for felony sex offenses and other specified offenses, a term which includes all other felonies and certain misdemeanor sex offenses.
Nesbit’s legislation would expand the list of other specified offenses to include first-degree misdemeanors, as well as several types of second-degree misdemeanors, including simple assault, indecent exposure, intimidation or retaliation of witnesses or victims, abuse of corpse and more.
8th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton