DNA sample bill co-authored by Rep. Pat Bauer passes Indiana House

February 21, 2017 Patrick Bauer

For immediate release:
Feb. 21, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – The DNA sample from felony arrestees bill, co-authored by State Rep. Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) and State Rep. Gregory Steuerwald (R-Danville), passed the Indiana House of Representatives today on an 81-16 vote.

This was the third year Bauer has authored or co-authored a DNA sampling bill. However, this was the first year one of those bills received a committee hearing. That bill, House Bill (HB) 1577, passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously earlier this session.

“There was a lot of misunderstanding about the bill when I first brought up the concept,” explained Bauer.

“DNA arrest sampling is the 21st century version of fingerprinting. The technique is a simple swap of the inside of a cheek from a person arrested for a felony. The 20-marker sample creates a DNA profile, without containing other identifiable characteristics, like health and personal attributes, other than gender identification. The most important aspect of DNA sampling is that the information is entered into a national databank to see if there are any matches. The DNA has been responsible for taking repeat offenders, like rapists and murders, off the street, so they cannot terrorize more victims.”

Bauer and Steurerwald, the bill’s author, spoke from the microphone during debate on HB 1577 about the many positives of DNA sampling from felony arrestees.

“I told my fellow legislators that not only does DNA sampling put dangerous, repeat offenders behind bars and solve cold cases, but it also has enabled several wrongfully convicted individuals to be exonerated and released from prison,” said Bauer.

“DNA sampling is incredibly cost effective as well. A $30 cheek swab has a cost savings of $27,000. Analysts estimate that DNA sampling in Indiana will save taxpayers more than $60 million per year because of large reductions in judicial system expenditures. Still, the cost savings, as great as they are, cannot begin to compare to the value of an innocent person’s life. The life of a daughter to her parents or a mother to her children is worth far more than all of the precious stones in the world. You can’t put a price on a loved one’s life.”

Jayann Sepich, a mother whose 22-year-old daughter was brutally raped and murdered in New Mexico in 2003, testified in hearings before House and Senate committees as she explained the benefits that House Bill 1577 and its companion, Senate Bill 322 (SB 322), would offer.

She asked the legislators to allow Indiana to join 30 other states and 53 countries in adopting arrest DNA sampling. As an example of how effective DNA sampling could be, she mentioned a study that tracked eight convicted felons in Chicago who were responsible for 53 rapes and murders. She said had DNA sampling been used upon felony arrest, most of those innocent lives would not have been lost to brutal killings. She and others who testified recounted cases all over the country that have resulted in felony convictions of murderers guilty of multiple killings. She emphasized that the use of DNA samples entered into the Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS, have revolutionized the effectiveness and efficiency of investigations throughout the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that requiring a forensic DNA sample upon felony arrest preserves constitutional rights and is a reasonable and legitimate police booking procedure, much like fingerprinting or photographing someone who has been arrested.

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, SB 322 passed 9-1 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be on the Senate calendar for consideration as HB 1577 travels to the Senate to be assigned to committee.