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Ohio’s Proposed DNA Law Changes

This past June, Ohio Senator David Goodman, R-New Albany, sponsored Ohio Senate Bill 77 which proposed changes to laws governing retention of DNA evidence and procedures for suspect lineups. The bill passed the Senate by a 32-1 vote, and now the House is close to passing the bill, after nearly a dozen amendments were adopted by the House Criminal Justice Committee.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, opposition to the bill comes from law-enforcement groups and prosecutors who are concerned about the bill’s requirements and the costs to implement them. Specifically, the legislation would require law enforcement to retain biological evidence for up to 30 years in cases of murder and sexual assault. Suspect lineups would now be blind: the officer conducting the lineup would not know the identity of the true suspect, or the officer would conduct a photo-lineup so that only the witness can see the pictures. Other changes to the law would make DNA testing open to parolees and require anyone charged with a felony to submit a DNA sample.

John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, felt the amendments to the bill made “vast improvements.” A key change was giving law-enforcement agencies the ability to discard biological evidence after 5 years if a defendant pleads guilty or no contest.

“This is about not just being tough on crime, but being smart on crime,” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project. “These are recognized as best practices around the country, and Ohio hasn’t been doing them, by and large.”

If the bill passes after next week’s vote, Ohio residents can look forward to improved practices that should help assure justice.

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