Access to DNA Testing

Assembly Panel Releases Johnson & Mainor Bill to Expand Access to DNA Testing, Exonerate the Wrongfully Convicted.

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Charles Mainor (D-Hudson) to help exonerate the wrongfully convicted by allowing anyone who has been convicted of a crime to request DNA testing was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.

New Jersey is one of 14 states with an incarceration requirement in their post-conviction DNA testing statutes, meaning only those who are currently incarcerated can file a motion for DNA testing. The bill (A-1678) would allow any person who has been convicted of a crime to make such a motion.

"Thanks to DNA testing, we have seen a number of individuals exonerated after years, sometimes decades spent behind bars for crimes they did not commit," said Johnson. "Sadly, under current state law, an innocent person who is on probation or parole does not have the same access to the technology that can help clear their name and restore their dignity. This bill would open access to DNA testing to these individuals, so they can stop living under the shadow of guilt and finally be free."

The bill also authorizes the court to order law enforcement officials to submit DNA evidence from a crime scene to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for testing, and to order the State Police laboratory to evaluate private laboratories for compliance with certain FBI standards.