House committee OKs bill to collect DNA samples in felony arrests

By Kayla Walker
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill allowing law enforcement to collect DNA samples from people at the time they are arrested on felony charges advanced to the full House.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 322 passed the House Judicial Committee by a 9-1 vote.

The bill’s author, Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, told the committee that collecting the DNA sample at the time of the felony arrest will help law enforcement identify perpetrators much earlier in the crime cycle.

Sen. Erin Houchin   Photo by Caitlin Soard, TheStatehouseFile.com

“Studies have shown that serial criminals will commit seven or eight crimes before they are identified.” Houchin said.

Houchin cited the case of John Clements, 82, who was shot and killed last fall outside his Zionsville home. A suspect was identified through DNA that was in a database in Ohio, where samples are collected at the time of arrest.

If the bill becomes law, Indiana would be the 31st state to implement DNA testing at the point of arrest.

DNA samples are removed from the system under three circumstances: the person is acquitted of all felony charges or charges are converted to misdemeanors, all felony charges against the person are dismissed, or no felony charges are filed against the person within 365 days.

A similar bill was filed in the House. House Bill 1577 required that the DNA sample be removed from the database if no charges are filed within 30 days, but Houchin said that was too little time to do any good.

“Both the state police and prosecutors thought that 30 days was too short of a time frame,” Houchin said. “We looked at the national averages and they’re anywhere from one to three years.”

Rep. John Young, R-Franklin, argued that collecting DNA at the time of arrest is an invasion of privacy even though the samples might be eventually removed from the database.

“To me this is a dragnet sweep to collect people’s DNA,” Young said. “I can’t think of anything more personal then my own DNA.”

Houchin said that arrestees will be informed of their right to remove the DNA sample if cleared and be provided a form with instructions on how to do so. Under the law the DNA will not automatically be removed – the person who gave the sample will have to petition the court for its removal.

“The only time it is sent to the database is if there is an arrest on probable cause or an arrest with a warrant,” Houchin said.

Young said the bill is unconstitutional.

“Guilty people do walk away free on technicalities,” Young said. “That’s a price that we pay to live in a free society.”

If the bill becomes law, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Kayla Walker is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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