Number of DNA samples spike after new law requires collection during arrests

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana State Police said Tuesday the numbers of collected DNA samples have quadrupled from the same time last year after a new state law took effect January 1.

The new law requires DNA samples be collected during every felony arrest as opposed to waiting until a conviction. The samples are now collected during processing at county jails and forwarded to an Indiana State Police lab in Indianapolis for analysis and entry into the Combined DNA Index System.

State police report 9,375 DNA samples were collected during felony arrests between January 1 and March 31. That represents a majority of the 12,705 samples collected in total – a combination of arrests and convictions for crimes that occurred before January 1.

“Did we expect there would be an increase? Logically yes we did,” Captain David Bursten said, the chief public information officer with Indiana State Police. “What was that increase going to be? We had to wait and see what those numbers would show us.”

Major Steve Holland, commander of the state police laboratory division, said in a statement he’s confident more crimes will be solved by linking arrest samples to open investigations.

State police report 72 hits among the 9,375 samples – matches to criminal investigations that are still likely unsolved – including a 2016 rape case.

“The whole expectation of having people arrested for a felony is there’s a presumption that if somebody has been arrested, it wasn’t the first felony they committed,” Bursten said.

It took lawmakers several years to pass the law. The most recent push came after the arrest of Damoine Wilcoxson. A DNA sample collected in Ohio led to a murder arrest in Indianapolis.

Concern, though, does remain.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union oppose the law, concerned not only about a backlog of DNA samples, but the infringement of personal rights.

“It’s staggering,” Katie Blair said, director of advocacy and public policy for the ACLU of Indiana. “When an individual is arrested, they should not be forced to automatically forfeit their right to their genetic privacy.”

Indiana became the 31st state to collect DNA samples upon felony arrests. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled similar laws as constitutional.

Bursten said he anticipates the number of overall samples to decrease from the first part of the year, noting pending cases for those arrested before January 1 will eventually wrap up.

State police maintain the lab is keeping up with its work and a backlog or overflow isn’t yet a concern.

“Well they have thus far,” Bursten said. “I would expect they’ll be reviewing the need for additional manpower but those are decision that haven’t been made yet.”