All Hoosier Felony Arrests Now Require Swab Test
Law enforcement officials in Jackson County say it’s too early to see the effects of a recent law requiring more stringent DNA testing of potential offenders.
Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 322 was authored last spring by state Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, and went into effect at the first of the year. It requires jails in Indiana to perform DNA samples on all people arrested on preliminary felony charges.
The samples are regularly sent to the Indiana State Police laboratory and entered into the state’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.
While the jails didn’t previously do DNA sampling, Jackson County Jail Commander Charlie Murphy said implementing the simple procedures have gone off without a hitch and is not a burden to the jail book-in process.
“When you get booked into jail, you get fingerprinted, you get your picture taken, you get patted down, you get your property inventory checked,” said Murphy. “We just added this as another step in the book-in process.”
Murphy said this procedure is a change from previous practice. “Before you had to go through the court process and be convicted of a felony before authorities got a DNA sample,” he explained. “With this new law, anyone charged with a felony will have a DNA sample taken.
“We swab a person’s mouth, seal up the swab with their identification information, and place the sealed package in a special container. When the container is full we ship it to the Indiana State Police lab,” said the jail commander.
Murphy said that jailors have taken around 90 DNA samples from those charged with felonies during the book-in process so far this year.
“It’s too early to determine any DNA matches and there might not be any this year,” said Murphy. “It takes time to analyze DNA and get it into the data base.
“We have the easy part; ISP has the burden,” said Murphy.
The state police lab is already back-logged with DNA testing. Add 91 counties (one Hoosier county does not have a jail) and it adds to the ISP already over burdened workload.
While no matches to other crimes have occurred yet, the data being added to the system may soon prove to be beneficial in identifying suspects in Jackson and surrounding counties cases.
“I do think it’s only a matter of time before this does result in solving unsolved crimes here in Jackson County,” Murphy said.
If a match is made, he said, the investigating police department would be notified, which would then notify the prosecutor’s office.
“And we would move forward to firm up that data and make sure it was accurate and conduct additional investigation,” Murphy said.
While those skeptical of the legislation have argued it crosses a line into privacy rights since it gathers evidence from people who are accused but not yet convicted, proponents say the benefits outweigh the cost.
“I don’t see how it wouldn’t be helpful,” Murphy said. “If any police agency goes to a scene, DNA is collected,” he said. “This may help link us to a suspect.”
He said he thinks one of the strongest points in the law is how it can aid sex crime cases.
“I think that sex offenses and child molesting are a category of crime that is especially heinous,” he said. “This particular law is going to yield the most benefits in identifying these perpetrators.”