NORTHEAST INDIANA (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — As of the new year, if you get arrested on a felony charge in Indiana, a fingerprint isn’t the only piece of evidence jail staff will expect you to submit during the booking process.
A new law is designed to solve more crimes, but not everybody thinks the change is a good idea.
At the Huntington County jail in 2018, commander Jeff Kyle has some new responsibilities.
Starting January 1st, those arrested for a felony crime in the Hoosier state had to begin submitting a DNA sample via a cheek swab.
Kyle says it’s not a big burden to his staff.
“It’s a quick two minute process and be done with it. Once we get them all collected, we’ll send them down to the state, to the state crime lab and then they’ll take care of doing what they need to do with it,” Kyle said.
The DNA profiles are being gathered for inclusion in the state’s Combined DNA Index System or CODIS, following passage of Senate Enrolled Act 322.
The samples are compared to other profiles in the database, hoping to boost the chances of getting a match on unsolved crimes like the 30-year old sexual assault and murder of 8-year old April Tinsley of Fort Wayne.
“I think it’s the right move,” said Larry Gist, who heads up the NAACP in Fort Wayne.
He supports expansion of DNA technology, citing the fact, in some cases, it has been used to exonerate people wrongly accused or convicted of serious crimes.
And if it can link suspects to crimes committed in the past…
“That’s a good thing, let it be, you know, you don’t have to worry about your conscious bothering you anymore,” Gist said.
Some legislators and law enforcement officials see real benefit in the change, but there are others who think it goes too far.
“It does fly in the face of presumption of innocence,” said long-time defense lawyer Don Swanson, who worries about invasion of privacy, and opposes the fact the sample is taken in the booking process, with no defense lawyer present.
Several states with a similar law allow an individual arrested but never convicted of a felony to petition to have the DNA sample removed from the database, but Swanson is skeptical.
“What guarantee do you have that they’ll actually expunge your sample,” he said.
Swanson would not be surprised if an organization like the ACLU challenges the provision, that extends the reach of the long arm of the law.