For immediate release:
June 2, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - A group of Indiana lawmakers will spend this summer studying a proposal from State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) that would enable DNA samples to be collected from anyone arrested on a felony charge, legislation that has proven to be instrumental in both solving crimes and clearing innocent people in other states.
Members of the Legislative Council –made up of Democratic and Republican leaders in both the Indiana House and Senate – agreed to send the proposal for additional study by the Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code. Once that study is complete, committee members will decide whether to propose legislation on the idea for consideration in the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly.
Bauer initially proposed the idea in House Bill 1551, a measure that did not advance in the 2015 session. However, leaders found the idea behind the legislation compelling enough to ask for added study.
“While all 50 states participate in a national DNA database (called the COmbined DNA Index System or CODIS), a growing number of states have chosen to expand their abilities to solve and prevent crimes by allowing law enforcement officers to collect a DNA sample when a felony suspect is booked, then including that information in the state’s CODIS database,” Bauer said.
“The information can then be checked against the database profiles of individuals who have been previously arrested of crimes or convicted of them to see if there are any matches,” he continued. “If there is a match, the information is passed along to investigators to determine if additional charges can be filed. If there are no matches, and the person is acquitted of felony charges or the charges are dropped, then the DNA sample will be expunged from the database.”
Bauer noted that 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.
“The advent of forensic DNA collection has proven to be extremely valuable in identifying people who may have committed multiple crimes,” Bauer said. “At the same time, it has been proven to help exonerate people falsely committed of crimes. Additionally, an independent study by a University of Virginia economist showed that more than $21 billion was saved across the United States in one year alone by expanding U.S. databases to include more offender profiles.
“A summer study of this issue will enable us to learn more of the value in implementing this change, as well as addressing concerns about privacy,” he continued. “I look forward to taking part in this debate in the months to come.”
Members of the interim study committee looking at Bauer’s proposal will be named in the weeks ahead.