Controversial Collection of Arrestees’ DNA Solves Cases

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Because Ohio is one of at least 32 states that allow police to take DNA samples from people as soon as they are arrested for a felony and enter them into a national database, Indiana authorities were able to crack a big murder case recently, Stateline reports. “We had no leads,” said Todd Meyer, prosecutor for Boone County, In., where the murder occurred. “Without the DNA we were able to obtain from [a suspect’s] felony arrest in another state, I believe the case would continue to be unsolved. We had nothing to lead us in that direction.”

Advocates for swabbing people as soon as they’re arrested, like Meyer, say it helps solve hard-to-crack cases when other leads grow cold. And, prosecutors and law enforcement officials say, it can help prevent crime by catching repeat offenders earlier in their criminal careers. “We started back in old days with mug shots, then people’s fingerprints,” Meyer said. “Now in the 21st century, we need to start using DNA to the fullest extent.” Opponents, including defense attorneys and civil rights groups, say that when people are swabbed for a DNA sample when they’re arrested, they are being treated as if they’re suspects in other crimes or even implicating themselves in crimes they may not be suspected of. And in cases in which a person is never charged, it can be expensive to get the record of their DNA expunged. “You can always collect DNA from someone convicted of a crime, so why do you need to frontload that and collect DNA from someone presumed innocent?” said Barry Pollack, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

 

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