New hope for DNA collection after felony arrest

By Derreck Stahly
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Legislators will once again try to pass a law that would allow police to collect DNA from people arrested on a felony charge.

Currently Indiana collects DNA samples from convicted felons for use in the DNA database. That law has been in effect for almost 11 years.

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, discussing her legislation proposal for DNA collection in Indiana. By Derreck Stahly, TheStatehouseFile.com

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, discussing her legislation proposal for DNA collection in Indiana. By Derreck Stahly, TheStatehouseFile.com

“Keeping our communities safe and giving law enforcement every tool they need to do their jobs efficiently and accurately is a top priority,” Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, said. “DNA profiling is an accurate, widely used tool that will help law enforcement solve crimes and convict those who are responsible, as well as exonerate the innocent.”

This is not the first time DNA sampling legislation has come before Indiana’s General Assembly. Indiana has been discussing this law for several years now. In the past it has failed to gain traction. However, Houchin said this upcoming session will be different.

“The case in Zionsville has highlighted the need for Indiana to follow suit with 30 other states and finally move this issue forward,” she said.

Through the use of DNA collection Zionsville Police were able to arrest a suspect last month in the murder of an 82-year-old man. The suspect had a previous arrest in Ohio, a state that does collect DNA on arrest for a felony charge. Investigators were able to use the sample collected in Ohio to match DNA found at the Indiana crime scene.

“I think until we had a real life example of how it could be beneficial, that may have caused a delay in implementation,” Houchin said.

The legislation being proposed this year would keep the DNA sample in the database even if the felony charge was dropped. The sample would be removed only if the person was acquitted. 

The National Institute of Justice, a branch of the U.S. Justice Department, points out on its website that some people argue this violates 4th Amendment rights because the sample is collected prior to a conviction.

But the question has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Maryland v. King, and in a ruling of 5-4, the court decided collecting DNA from arrested felony suspects is constitutional.

Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, after talking about authoring DNA legislature in the past. by Derreck Stahly, TheStatehouseFile.com

Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, after talking about authoring DNA legislature in the past. by Derreck Stahly, TheStatehouseFile.com

Rep. Patrick Bauer, a South Bend Democrat who has brought forth similar legislation in the past and plans to support the new proposal, drew a connection between fingerprinting and DNA collection.

“It is the same fight that had to be done for fingerprinting. They said it was invasion of privacy. Now if you didn’t fingerprint, a lot of convicts would keep on going,” Bauer said.

The Indiana General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Derreck Stahly is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College students.

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