CLARK CO, Ind. (WHAS11) -- Corrections officers at the Clark County jail have started collecting DNA from suspected felony offenders during the jail intake process.
Under a new Indiana law, effective Jan. 1, anyone arrested for a felony is required to submit to a cheek swab in addition to the usual paperwork, fingerprinting, and photographs. DNA samples were previously only collected upon a felony conviction.
Once a judge determines there is probable cause for an arrest, the DNA sample will be sent to the State Police Lab in Indianapolis to be entered into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, database.
“During the intake process, there's many steps as far as patting inmates down, taking their fingerprints, and logging their information. So this is just one more step that we had to add to the process,” said Lt. Col. Scottie Maples of the Clark County Sheriff's Office.
Maples said collecting the DNA samples is a “fairly simple” process that “isn't too demanding” on corrections staff. The officers were trained by state police in 2017 before the law took effect. Maples said the DNA collected at the jail will be stored in an evidence locker and shipped to Indianapolis on a weekly basis.
Republican Sen. Erin Houchin of Salem authored the bill, which was signed into law in April 2017. She said it was inspired by a murder case in Zionsville, Ind in which an 82-year-old man was gunned down outside his home. Investigators found DNA on a shell casing at the scene and matched it to a man whose profile was in the national database because of a felony arrest in Ohio, which already required DNA to be collected upon a felony arrest.
“Because we know that serious criminals often go on to commit numerous crimes before they are ever convicted, the collection of DNA upon felony arrest will save lives,” Sen. Houchin said. “It will give law enforcement the tools to bring more criminals to justice for these crimes and bring peace to victims and their families.”
In addition to solving crimes quicker, Houchin said the law could also be used to exonerate innocent people.
Unlike fingerprints and photographs, which are kept permanently, there are several ways DNA profiles can be expunged from the CODIS system. Profiles can be removed if felony charges are reduced to misdemeanors, if an individual is acquitted of a crime, or if no charges are filed after 12 months.