For immediate release:
Aug. 18, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - The Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code today listened to testimony about State Rep. Pat Bauer’s (D-South Bend) legislative proposal to collect DNA samples from people arrested on felony charges.
Bauer and Jayann Sepich, a mother whose 22-year-old daughter, Katie, was brutally raped and murdered in New Mexico in 2003, testified that the collection of DNA from felony suspects has proven instrumental in solving crimes and of exonerating innocent people wrongly convicted of crimes in the 28 states that have enacted similar legislation.
“We know this (DNA collection) has the power to prevent unbearable pain that can be visited on so many families,” Sepich told committee members. “And I am very intimately acquainted with that pain, because I still live through it.”
Bauer initially proposed the idea in House Bill 1551, a measure that did not advance in the 2015 session. However, legislative leaders found the idea behind the bill compelling enough to ask for additional study.
“All states participate in the national DNA database called Combined DNA Index System or CODIS,” explained Bauer. “However, 28 states have expanded their efforts by enabling police officers to collect a DNA sample when a felony suspect is booked. That information is then entered into the state’s CODIS database.
“The database of people previously arrested or convicted of felonies is checked to see if there are matches,” continued Bauer. “If one is found, the information is forwarded 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.”
Sepich told study committee members that the real power of the DNA samples goes beyond the capturing of criminals.
“DNA helps us identify criminals,” Sepich said. “It helps us solve crimes. But the power in DNA, especially taking it upon arrest, is not just in solving crimes, but preventing them.”
Sepich then went on to give examples of how DNA collection could have prevented crimes. She said a study in Chicago tracked the history of eight convicted felons. She contends 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.
“The collection of forensic DNA has proven to be a highly useful tool in identifying individuals who have committed multiple crimes,” Bauer said.
“The DNA data has also helped clear people who have been falsely accused of crimes. A study by an economist at the University of Virginia determined that a savings of more than $21 billion was realized in the United States, in one year alone, by expanding U.S. databases to include more offender profiles.”
Breaking that figure down, Sepich told committee members that the same study showed that for every $30 invested in DNA collection, states saved $27,000 in taxpayer money.
Once the Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code completes its examination of various issues, the members will determine whether or not to recommend legislation for the upcoming 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly.