Too many prisoners behind bars have long protested their innocence, and now, Governor Chris Christie has signed a measure that aims to provide these prisoners with the means to clear their own names. As technology continues to advance, more and more options for DNA analysis and testing are available, making it easier to prove who was involved in a particular crime.
For example, hair collected from an investigation may not have been tested 20 years ago because the technology wasn’t available; but now, that hair could be the proof needed to place a person at the scene of the crime.
The new bill, A1678/S1365, opens up DNA testing procedures (at the expense of the state) to anyone who has been accused of a crime. Previously, only incarcerated defendants could apply to use DNA testing paid for by the state, but now, those who are on parole or probation will have the same opportunities.
Before the new legislation, New Jersey was only one of 14 states with the requirement that a person be incarcerated before applying to use DNA testing for exoneration.
Why Does This Matter for Parolees and People on Probation?
If you’re serving time for a crime you didn’t commit, the time spent serving your sentence is only one part of the burden you have to carry. Spending time in jail for something you didn’t do is horrible, but even after you have fulfilled the terms of your sentence, your conviction will continue to follow you.
People with criminal records have a harder time finding gainful employment, and it is often very difficult to explain their background and past to employers, friends, coworkers and potential romantic partners. Even if you do explain the circumstances, the chances that someone will believe your innocence over a court record are slim at best. A criminal record is a constant weight, and if you did nothing wrong, only your word can go against the paper record of your arrest and conviction.
The new bill could be life-changing for people who were accused of sex crimes in the ‘80s and ‘90s and are currently serving time, or have just been released from prison. At the time of their arrests, DNA testing was not readily available, but now, it could easily clear their names.
If a person is found guilty of committing a sex crime, he or she is required to register on the New Jersey Sex Offender Registry, usually for life, even after serving time. Exoneration through DNA testing can remove a person’s name from the registry and open up opportunities from both a personal and professional standpoint.
If you are innocent and have been charged with a crime, clearing your name is critical for your future. With the help of DNA testing, hundreds of wrongfully-imprisoned people can be exonerated. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers represent anyone who has been charged with criminal activity. For more information, and to discuss your options for DNA testing to prove your innocence, contact our offices today.