Senate version of DNA sample bill passes House on third reading, according to Bauer

April 6, 2017 Patrick Bauer

INDIANAPOLIS – Senate Bill (SB) 322, a DNA sample from felony arrestees bill cosponsored by Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), passed the Indiana House of Representatives today.

SB 322 is a companion bill to House Bill (HB) 1577, which was coauthored by Bauer and State Rep. Gregory Steuerwald (R-Danville). HB 1577 passed the House, but did not get beyond the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate version will now go to the governor for consideration.

“I am pleased that we succeeded after working three years to win support for the bill,” said Bauer.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a Senate bill or a House bill. The important thing is that it will be a critically important law that will save lives as it puts serial murders and rapists behind bars. There initially was a great deal of misunderstanding about what the bill actually did when I first introduced it. It doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others. It is just a simple swap of the inside of the cheek of a person arrested for a felony. If the person is found to be innocent, then the data is not kept. The 20-marker sample creates a DNA profile, without containing other identifiable characteristics, like health and personal attributes, other than gender identification.”

Bauer said the DNA sampling is entered into a national databank to see if there are matches, which have resulted in the successful conviction of repeat offenders in states that have a DNA collection law.

“DNA arrest sampling is the 21st century version of fingerprinting, which has been actively used for more than 100 years,” explained Bauer.

“DNA sampling is remarkably cost-effective as well. Analysts have estimated that DNA sampling in Indiana will save $60 million a year in tax money because of sizable reductions in judicial system expenditures. However, the most important aspect of DNA sampling is the ability to prevent the rape or murder of an innocent person. You cannot put a price on the life of a mother to her child, a daughter to her parents or a wife to her husband. This law will prove to be one of the most important pieces of legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly in decades.”

Bauer also mentioned that DNA sampling has enabled many wrongfully convicted people to be exonerated and released from prison.

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 about the positive impact and benefits of HB 1577 and SB 322.

Sepich asked the senators and representatives to allow Indiana to join 30 other states and 53 countries in adopting arrest DNA sampling. She gave an example of how effective DNA sampling can be when she outlined a study that tracked eight convicted felons, in Chicago, who were responsible for 53 rapes and murders. She said if DNA sampling had been used upon felony arrest, most of those innocent lives would not have been lost to these serial murders.

Sepich and others who testified mentioned numerous cases throughout 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, has 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.