California Bill to Expand Access to DNA Testing
California legislators are considering a bill sponsored by the
California Innocence Project
Northern California Innocence Project
that would expand access to post-conviction DNA testing.
reported yesterday that Senate Bill 980 (SB 980), introduced by Senator Ted Lieu, would allow inmates convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony or other non-biological evidence to have improved access to DNA testing.
Lieu believes that SB 980 would make California a leader in post-conviction DNA testing in the United States. “Right now for a state prisoner to request to have biological evidence tested, the proof has to show that there is a reasonable likelihood that [the evidence] will change basically the outcome of the trial, and that can be a pretty high standard,” Lieu told
. “We changed the standard to simply say that a prisoner can have the biological material tested if it’s relevant to show who the perpetrator was.”
The bill, which is co-sponsored by the
American Civil Liberties Union of California
and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, aims to amend the current DNA testing statute that was enacted in 2000 so petitioners can benefit from advancements in DNA technology. Among the changes, SB 980 would require law enforcement agencies to attempt to locate evidence and confirm whether it was preserved or destroyed; allow individuals’ access to the physical and biological evidence preserved in their cases; and enable courts to run unknown DNA profiles through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System database. It would also broaden the number of laboratories authorized to conduct DNA testing.
Lieu noted that the additional costs associated with the changes would be covered by freeing inmates who have been wrongly convicted. “Because for the rest of their life, they won’t be in prison taking taxpayers’ money – they’ll be out,” Lieu told
. “So we believe this bill’s costs will be offset by the amount we save.”
The bill is scheduled for a hearing with the California Senate Public Safety Committee on April 22.
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