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Indiana Statehouse

Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana law enforcement is entering a brave new world where police can obtain and test any Hoosier's DNA profile against crime scene evidence, so long as a prosecutor can show the person probably committed a felony.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 322 requiring police to take a cheek swab DNA sample from every person arrested for a felony, starting in 2018.

Currently, only individuals convicted of felonies have their DNA records permanently entered into a state police database.

State Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, the sponsor of the new law, said she expects police will catch more criminals once they have a bigger pool of DNA records to check against blood, fluids and other detritus gathered at crime scenes.

She also refused to rule out someday expanding the DNA collection mandate to include those arrested for misdemeanors or traffic infractions.

"DNA profiling is an accurate, widely used tool that will help law enforcement solve crimes and convict those who are responsible," Houchin said.

The new law provides that an individual's DNA sample only will be added to the state's database after a judge affirms that police had probable cause to arrest the person, which means it's more likely than not the person committed the crime he or she is accused of.

That's a significantly lower standard than the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt required for conviction.

If prosecutors are unable to convict, the law establishes a process for the person to request his or her DNA be expunged from the state database.

However, the Indiana Code also provides that if the record is not deleted as requested, that oversight does not invalidate any future arrest or conviction based on DNA evidence that shouldn't be in the database.

State Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, opposed the measure because he said it runs afoul of 4th Amendment protections against illegal police searches because an arrestee's DNA record will be used for investigatory purposes, not just identification.

"This is no different than the government coming in your house looking for evidence to see if there's anything laying around that they might be able to put together to find out you committed another crime. There is no difference," Young said.

"Why can't we just do it the right way and get a warrant?" he asked.

The law was approved 36-13 by the Senate and 84-13 in the House. Both chambers are Republican-controlled.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, and state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, were the only Northwest Indiana lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.