DNA sample bill easily passes House Judiciary Committee

February 13, 2017 Patrick Bauer

For immediate release:
Feb. 13, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – The DNA sample bill, co-authored by State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) and State Rep. Gregory Steuerwald (R-Danville), was heard today in the Indiana House Judiciary Committee, where it passed by an 11-0 vote.

Jayann Sepich, a mother whose 22-year-old daughter was brutally raped and murdered in New Mexico in 2013, testified before the committee [pictured at right] as she explained the benefits House Bill 1577 offers.

“DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st century,” said Sepich. “Arrest DNA does prevent crime. It protects our freedom so families like mine don’t have to bury their daughters. This law saves lives. I ask that Indiana join 30 other states and 53 countries in adopting arrest DNA.”

Sepich explained how DNA samples taken during felony arrests can prevent repeat offenders from raping and murdering.

“A study of Chicago cases, for example,” she explained, “tracked the history of eight convicted felons who were responsible for 53 rapes and murders. So many, many lives could have been saved if arrest DNA had been used.”

Sepich detailed other cases around the country and added that several wrongly convicted individuals have been freed because of arrest DNA, which she said is an important aspect of taking DNA samples. She told committee members that 20 DNA markers go into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). While the sample creates a DNA profile, it does not contain any predictive information on genetic health or other personal characteristics other than gender information that goes into CODIS.

Sepich said a study reveals that collecting arrest DNA will be cash positive to state and local governments because of a net reduction in judicial system expenditures.

“A $30 cheek swab has a cost savings of $27,000,” said Sepich. “In New Mexico, $200,000 was spent in our daughter’s (murder) investigation, because arrest DNA was not the law. More important than even these cost savings is the prevention of innocent lives from being lost.”

Analysts estimate that the DNA legislation could save Indiana taxpayers more than $60 million per year.

Other groups, like the public defenders, prosecutors and the Indiana State Police also testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

This will be the third session in a row that the two legislators have introduced a DNA collection bill. Bauer said each year support for the legislation has grown.

“The issue has gained momentum as legislators have learned more about the issue,” said Bauer. “Arrest DNA works. It gives police and prosecutors the tools to put repeat offenders behind bars and exonerate those who were wrongly convicted. As Jayann Sepich explained, the use of arrest DNA is cost effective. In fact, it would be one of the best expenditures, with return on investment, the state could make.

“More important than the cost savings is the prevention of innocent lives from being taken,” reflected Bauer.

“One cannot put a price tag on the value of a daughter to her family or a mother to her children. I thank the committee members for their support of this bill. In particular, I thank Rep. Steuerwald for carrying this critically important piece of legislation, perhaps one of the most important, with long-range impact, being considered during this legislative session.”

Steuerwald is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Bauer is the ranking Democratic member of the committee.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 322, is scheduled for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 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.