A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

The House and Senate will be in session on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The House will also be in session on Thursday.

Sen. Pileggi’s Bill To Strengthen DNA Laws Passes Senate

Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies will be able to make better use of DNA evidence under legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) which was approved by the Senate Tuesday by a vote of 42-6.

Senate Bill 775 will require individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples, and it will authorize a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes.

Sen. Pileggi’s legislation – which is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, and the national nonprofit organization DNA Saves – will:

— Expand the eligible criminal offenses for which DNA testing is required;

— Require pre-conviction DNA testing for those arrested for certain serious offenses;

— Explicitly prohibit DNA samples from being used for anything other than legitimate law enforcement identification purposes;

— Require the immediate destruction of DNA records of exonerated individuals;

— Authorize the state police to use modified DNA searches to help investigators identify unknown DNA profiles taken at crime scenes;

— Codify accreditation requirements for forensic DNA testing laboratories; and

— Require continuing education for forensic DNA testing personnel.

Modified DNA searches assist investigators by identifying DNA profiles taken at crime scenes that contain enough common characteristics to indicate that the source of the crime-scene profile could be a close relative of an offender whose profile is already in the database. Several other states, including California, Colorado and Virginia, now use similar DNA searches.

Senate Bill 775 will allow the name of the offender already in the database to be released to law enforcement officials – under certain conditions – to allow further investigation into whether or not a relative was the source of the crime-scene DNA sample.

Senate Bill 775 now moves to the State House for consideration.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Megan’s Law and Adam Walsh measures

The House Judiciary Committee, Monday, acted to bring Pennsylvania into compaliance with the Adama Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 and close loop holes in Pennsylvanias sex offender registry law known as Megan’s Law.

House Bill 1958 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) was amended to incorporate provisions of Senate Bill 1183 (Orie-R-Allegheny).

Under the bill, Pennsylvania would adopt the comprehensive set of standards associated with the federal law. Sexual offenders would be required to:

— report any change in address, phone number, email address, job and educational status;

— verify the name of any location they will be staying at if away from their permanent address seven days or longer;

— provide advance notice of international travel at least 21 days before departure; and

— make all required reporting in-person at an approved registration site.

The bill also places offenders into a three-tiered system based on the level of the offense. Those in Tier 1 must register for 15 years, Tier 2 must register for three years and offender in Tier 3 must register for life.

Also under the bill, loopholes in the state’s Megan’s law that were brought to light by recent court cases would be closed. Provisions include homeless or transient sex offenders who do not have a permanent address or technical residence would be required to register every 30 days as well as new provisions regarding out-of state offenders.

Senate Bill 1183 (Orie-R-Allegheny) itself was amended and reported out of the Committee with provisions designed to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act as well as close Megan’s Law loopholes.

Child casino bills pass House
House Bill 120 (O’Brien-D-Philadelphia) providing a penalty for leaving children unattended in casino parking lots and House Bill 121 (O’Brien-D-Philadelphia) further providing for fines by the Gaming Board for casinos involving children left unattended in casino parking lots were passed by the House by a vote of 193-0 and now go to the Senate for consideration.

Sexual Assault Of Children
House Bill 1397 (Vereb-R-Montgomery) providing for the offense of sexual assault of sports officials was reported from the House Appropriations Committee and was passed by the House by a vote of 194-0. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

DUI/Drugs
Senate Bill 539 (Rafferty-R-Montgomery) further providing for driving after imbibing alcohol or utilizing drugs was passed by the Senate by a vote of 49-0 and now goes to the House for consideration.

Capital Punishment
Senate Resolution 6 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) directing the Joint State Government Commission to establish a task force to conduct a study of capital punishment was amended and reported from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now on the Senate Calendar for action.

PCRA Reform
Senate Bill 1153 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) which would expand the window for filing a PCRA Petition was held over by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the purpose of scheduling a hearing.

House Judiciary Committee meets Tuesday

Listed for a hearing is House Bill 2032 (Metcalfe-R-Butler) further providing for the theft of scrap metals.

The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!).

The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC. You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch

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