New Indiana law requires DNA samples be collected following all felony arrests

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Starting Jan. 1, anyone arrested for a felony in Indiana will be required to submit a DNA sample.

DNA samples were previously only collected following a felony conviction. The new law will require police to take a cheek swab along with fingerprints from everyone arrested for a felony crime.

“The more samples we have, the more safe the public is,” said state Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem).

Houchin says collecting DNA from everyone arrested for a felony crime will benefit public safety by creating a larger database of possible offenders.

"Serious offenders often commit 7 to 8 crimes before they are convicted, so having these samples in the database can bring criminals to justice more quickly," said Houchin.

"DNA collection is today's finger print," said state Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).  "This could be very powerful, a powerful tool in making sure the bad guys are in jail."

The issue had been controversial at the Indiana statehouse for years until the case of Damoine Wilcoxson re-igniting the debate. Prosecutors say Wilcoxson killed an 82-year-old man outside his Zionsville home in September 2016 and shot up two different IMPD buildings.

Investigators recovered a partial DNA profile from a note left at one of the scenes, as well as from a shell casing, and matched it to Wilcoxson. His profile was in a national database because of a DNA collection law in Ohio.

"We benefited from the fact that Ohio had it," said state Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger). "It’s a powerful technique to be able to solve crimes and prevent crimes."

Still, to address privacy concerns from some critics, if suspects are acquitted of their felony charges or the charges are lowered to a misdemeanor, the DNA sample can be erased.

The lab director of the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency Michael Medler said the change will be a good crime-fighting tool.  Although it will mean an increase in work load, he says under current law DNA test results in his lab return a successful hit just over 48 percent of the time.  States with a DNA collection law following arrest have shown a 75 percent successful hit rate.

Lawmakers say Indiana will become the 31st state to allow DNA samples following felony arrests. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the laws are constitutional.

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