Criminal Law – Legislative Update

Oregon GoDouble helixvernor Kate Brown has signed into law a new bill easing the restrictions on post-conviction DNA testing.  The law permits DNA testing to challenge convictions even if someone is not incarcerated.  It also lowers the standard for the courts to allow post-conviction DNA testing.  The previous law required a showing that the test could “establish actual innocence.”  Now it is only required that the test could “lead to a finding of actual innocence.”  This change permits testing if the results could lead to other evidence that might prove innocence, rather than requiring that the evidence could directly exonerate the person who was convicted.

Proponents of the law, including leaders of the Oregon Innocence Project, argued that DNA testing should be permitted if it could lead to new avenues of investigation that could prove the convicted person’s innocence.  Opponents, including some Oregon District Attorneys, say that the wording of the new law is too ambiguous.