The laws regarding the collection of DNA samples for use in criminal investigations in Ohio continue to evolve. The current law requires that all those arrested on felony charges in our state provide samples of their DNA to law enforcement personnel for entry in a database. This is now intended to be accomplished at the local level at the time of arrest.

Previously, Ohio law required DNA to be collected from those convicted of felony charges. This was primarily accomplished while the individuals affected were in the state prison system or on parole. However, recent reports have brought to light the fact that a significant number of individuals were released from the prison system without their DNA being entered in the database. Law enforcement personnel have lauded the database as an effective tool in criminal investigations.

A news article first reported that as many as 300 individuals were released from the Ohio prison system in 2012 without their DNA processed according to law. Law enforcement officials say the DNA of a Cleveland felon was not entered into the database, and that he was later found guilty of committing 11 murders over the period of several years. The suggestion is that some of those murders could have been prevented had the database correctly included his DNA. An update to the original news story stated that the exact number of those felons released from prison without having their DNA samples entered in the database is uncertain, though fewer than 300 were released in 2012 and some who were identified are actually still incarcerated.

DNA evidence has had a substantial impact on criminal investigations in Ohio and across the country. However, it is not foolproof and certain procedures must be followed to ensure accuracy and to qualify for use as evidence in a legal proceeding. Nevertheless, DNA evidence certainly ups the ante for those facing felony charges in our state, and those affected would likely benefit from gaining an understanding of the applicable laws and procedures involved in the collection and use of DNA samples as evidence. Merely being accused of a crime is a far cry from being convicted of one, and each individual facing criminal charges is entitled to the same legal rights that protect us all.

Source: sfgate.com, “Ohio inmates released without giving DNA samples,” Jan. 29, 2013