Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Blog: PA seeks to expand DNA collection

Matthew T. Mangino
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
December 17, 2013

DNA is having an impact on solving cold sexual assault cases. A quick google search reveals a litany of cases supporting the expanded collection of DNA evidence.

A couple of months ago, a former Pittsburgh man serving a 90-year sentence on separate sex offenses was convicted, through DNA, of sexual assault in a 24-year-old Allegheny County case. In Georgia, a man was recently arrested for a rape that occurred 15 years ago based on a DNA match. A North Carolina man already serving a prison sentence on a separate crime was arrested for a 17-year-old rape after a DNA match. In Denver, a man was arrested for an 18-year-old kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl based on a DNA database match.

All 50 states collect DNA from people who have been convicted of crimes. Twenty-eight states and the federal government routinely collect DNA samples from arrestees. Pennsylvania may soon become the 29th state to authorize DNA collection after an arrest. Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s Senate Bill 150 would expand Pennsylvania’s DNA collection law by requiring individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples.

Senate Bill 150 is supported by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, the Pennsylvania State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and the national organization DNA Saves.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to DNA collection after arrest in Maryland v. King. The Court held, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the “quick and painless” swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment. As a result the search had to be reasonable under the circumstances. Kennedy determined the search was reasonable given “the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”

According to, “The state police estimate expanding DNA collections could cost up to $7 million annually as labs are swamped with new requests.” However, in 2012 rape alone cost the Commonwealth over $503 million, and stopping repeat offenders could allow SB150 to pay for itself.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. He is the former district attorney for Lawrence County and former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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