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State Sen. Wyss wants DNA from all suspected felons

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 12:01 am

A Fort Wayne lawmaker wants everyone arrested for a felony – guilty or not – to submit a mandatory DNA sample to be archived in a police database until the case is dismissed or the suspect found innocent.

State Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, introduced the bill Monday and said it would help police stop potential repeat offenders, who may progress to more heinous crimes, and solve "cold cases" that have never led to an arrest.

"What we want to do is, you've got to get the bad guy off the street as soon as possible," Wyss said. "The thing about DNA is it's the greatest thing we have in society to prove someone's guilt or innocence."

State law currently requires a DNA sample from offenders convicted of felonies after June 30, 2005, but the new bill would create a huge increase in the number of samples being collected and archived, according to the Legislative Services Agency, the General Assembly's nonpartisan research arm.

According to an LSA digest of the bill, it would require a DNA sample from anyone arrested for – but not necessarily charged with – a felony. A person who has been arrested could ask for the sample to be destroyed if:

- The person is not charged;

- The person is acquitted of all charges;

- The person's conviction is reversed; or

- The case is dismissed.

Based on state and national data, about 20 percent of all arrests will either be dismissed or acquitted, meaning that between 16 and 25 DNA samples would need to be destroyed each day if the law were passed, according to the LSA.

Wyss said he was not concerned about taking DNA from the 20 percent of people who are arrested but not convicted. Those samples "can be expunged. What about the other 80 percent," he said.

The bill would cost Indiana State Police millions of dollars – about $1 million annually – over the next four years in extra staffing, equipment and processing to run the database, the LSA wrote in its fiscal impact statement.

The agency estimated that the bill would at least double the number of DNA samples being taken each year, with a possible increase of 150 percent.

Local sheriff's departments – which usually take the initial DNA sample when suspects are booked into the county jail – also would face increased costs because of the bill, according to the LSA. But the fiscal impact statement did not go into detail about the financial impact on local police.

“The issue I have with it is typically, the state will come up with new rules and then say there's no money for it,” said Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries. “As long as it doesn't cost anything at the local level, I have no problem with it.”

Wyss did not know exactly how much the bill would cost local police, but he said the impact would be "minimal."

Since 2003, three other states – California, North Dakota and South Dakota – have passed laws requiring everyone arrested for a felony to submit to a DNA sample, according to the LSA digest.

Wyss' bill is scheduled for a Jan. 23 hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.