For immediate release:
Nov. 18, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - Rep. Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) filed a bill on the Indiana State Legislature's Organization Day (Tue., Nov. 17) that would require collection of DNA samples from people arrested on felony charges.
Organization Day is the first day lawmakers are allowed to file bills for the upcoming 2016 legislative session. Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) signed onto the bill as co-author. Steuerwald is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Bauer initially proposed the idea in House Bill 1551. While the legislation did not advance in the 2015 session, legislative leaders found the bill’s concept compelling enough to ask for additional study.
“This is an important, crime-fighting measure that will help to bring to justice people who have committed violent crimes, like murder and rape,” said Bauer. “This past summer we heard testimony from Jayann Sepich, whose 22-year-old daughter, Katie, was brutally raped and murdered in New Mexico in 2003. She testified that collection of DNA from felony suspects has proven instrumental in solving crimes and exonerating innocent people wrongly convicted of crimes. So far, 28 states have enacted similar legislation.”
All states participate in the national DNA database called Combined DNA Index System or CODIS. However, 28 states have passed legislation to require the collection of a DNA sample when a felony suspect is booked. Those states then have that information entered into the CODIS database.
“In those states, the database of individuals previously arrested or convicted of felonies is then checked to see if there are matches,” continued Bauer. “If a match is found, the information is sent to investigators to determine whether additional charges should be filed. If there are no matches and the person is acquitted of the felony charges or they are dropped, then the DNA sample will be expunged from the database.”
Bauer said the value of the buccal swab DNA collection from felony suspects goes beyond solving crimes.
“As Jayann Sepich told the study committee members, the real value of the DNA collection from those being charged with felonies comes in the prevention of crimes,” explained Bauer. “There are so many perpetrators who commit multiple crimes and many of those crimes are rapes and murders. By cross-checking DNA for matches, we are keeping those criminals off the street, so they cannot commit more violent crimes.”
Bauer mentioned that during the summer study committee hearing, a particular research project in Chicago was mentioned. The study tracked the history of eight convicted felons. Bauer said an analysis of the data indicates that if DNA had been taken during the first arrest of each of those men that 53 rapes and murders would have been prevented.
A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling determined 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.
Bauer mentioned that clearing innocent people wrongly convicted of crimes would be another benefit of passing this legislation. A cost-savings to taxpayers is another.
“Experience has shown that DNA data has helped exonerate people who have been falsely accused of crimes,” added Bauer.
“In addition, an economist from the University of Virginia conducted a study that found that a $21 billion savings was realized in the United States in one year alone by expanding U.S. databases to include more offender profiles. According to the figures, for every $30 invested in DNA collection, states saved $27,000 in taxpayer money.”
Bauer’s bill will be assigned to a House committee after the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.