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Bill Would Ease California Restrictions On Inmate DNA Evidence Tests

A DNA evidence test can be a powerful tool for a person wrongfully convicted of a crime. Now a California lawmaker wants to make it easier for inmates to request one.

Inmates in California prisons can already request DNA tests of evidence from their cases. But Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu says the process is cumbersome and presents numerous hurdles for prisoners. He's introduced a bill to streamline the process.

SB 980 Fact Sheet
A summary of Senate Bill 980's main points.
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One of the changes his bill proposes would allow courts to order that the DNA be run through a federal database.

“Maybe 10 years ago this DNA evidence would not have triggered a hit of any perpetrator," Lieu says. "But now it may. And it may be someone totally different than a person sitting in state prison.”

Additional changes would include lowering the standard inmates have to meet to request a test and extending the amount of time an inmate has to request that evidence from his trial be preserved.

Lieu says more than 300 innocent people have been released from prison because of DNA evidence testing, including eight in California.