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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ind. Law - "DNA bill would keep sample in system even if charges are dismissed" [Updated]

Updating this ILB post from Nov. 7th, quoting a story from Madeline Buckley of the Indianapolis Star, reporter Buckley has another story today, now that a bill has been prepared (although it apparently is not yet available to the public). From the story [ILB emphasis]:

Indiana lawmakers are once again introducing a bill that would require those arrested on a felony charge to submit to the collection of their DNA for a national database — but this bill would make it harder for arrestees to remove their DNA from the database.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, along with law enforcement and prosecutors, gathered Tuesday to unveil a bill that state Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, plans to introduce when the next session of the General Assembly convenes in January. Houchin cited the recent arrest of a suspect in the killing of an 82-year-old man — an arrest made because of a DNA collection law in Ohio — as an example of the potential impact of such a law in Indiana.

But Houchin's bill takes a key departure from past versions of the bill: Arrestees could remove their DNA from the database only if they are acquitted of the charge. If prosecutors never file criminal charges after an arrest, or if charges are dismissed, the DNA would remain in the database, under her proposal.

It's a change that is likely to be challenged by critics who believe DNA should be removed from the database if there is not a conviction. However, Houchin said that measure is crucial to keeping people safe.

Removing DNA from the system only upon acquittal is important, she said, because of the challenges of bringing sex crimes to trial. She also noted that often if a case is transferred to federal court, charges are dismissed by the state. * * *

Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said the group likely would advocate for removal of DNA from the database if no conviction results from the arrest.

"If you’re not convicted, it should be expunged," he said.

Whether a DNA collection bill gets a hearing in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee depends on how many bills are assigned to the committee, said Rep. Thomas Washburne, who chairs the committee. He said any opposition to measures in the bill could be worked through in committee hearings.

"The opposition to the bill will come from people who think that being arrested is not enough to warrant the invasion of privacy of taking DNA and giving it to government," said Washburne, R-Darmstadt. "Anything that makes it more difficult to get the DNA sample out of the system would engender opposition."

[Updated 12/8/16] This long story today by Marueen Hayden, CNHI State Reporter, includes:
The case may compel reluctant lawmakers to act, said Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Washington, chairman of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

Washburne said he’s opposed to the idea of expanded DNA collection, citing privacy concerns and the potential for abuse by police and prosecutors. But he said he’s likely to give the bill a committee hearing because it’s worthy of debate.

“It pits two fundamental, legitimate things against each other,” he said — the desire to lock up dangerous perpetrators against the forced collection of evidence from those not convicted of crimes.

“That creates a real tension for lawmakers,” he said.

The tension existed for the U.S. Supreme Court, too, in the North Carolina case three years ago that cleared the way for an arrested person’s DNA to be collected and stored in a national database.

The 5-to-4 decision split the justices in an unusual way, with the majority reasoning that a sample doesn’t violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizure.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative, dissented with three of the court’s liberal judges. He called mandatory DNA sampling a violation of basic civil liberties.

Washburne predicted a similar split in the General Assembly. “We’re going to have to really wrestle with this,” he said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 7, 2016 08:18 AM
Posted to Indiana Government