Ohio maintains a database of DNA profiles. They are designed to aid police investigators as they track down criminals involved in cold cases and new cases alike. By law, everyone arrested on a felony charge is required to submit genetic material that can then be added to the system.
Unfortunately, a recent investigation has just determined that the majority of police departments have been somewhat haphazard in their collection methods. This has resulted in an uneven application of the law against some defendants and not others.
According to the investigation, the lapses have occurred mostly through miscommunication and human error — although the lapses are shockingly widespread. In many cases, police departments thought that the DNA was being collected at the jails, while jail officials thought that DNA was being collected by the police at booking. In other cases, it seems that there was simply confusion over which defendants were subject to the law and which ones weren’t.
During the course of the investigation, many departments discovered that they hadn’t even been using the tools available to them to ensure compliance with the law — like the “flag” list that can be generated to indicate which defendants hadn’t yet been subjected to testing. In addition, no specific auditing measures seem to have been put in place.
DNA collection from arrestees is a controversial issue in the first place. The practice of taking DNA from those already convicted of crimes is largely accepted, but many in the nation feel that DNA collection upon arrest is a violation of a defendant’s civil rights. That’s why the process is mandated in some states and not others.
The information coming from the recent investigation into Ohio’s lapses when it comes to following its own DNA collection law highlights the fact that uneven treatment is, for many defendants, an unfortunate reality in the criminal system. However, arrestees can probably expect Ohio police departments to step up their compliance with the law in the future now that significant lapses have been uncovered.
If you’re arrested on any felony charge, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your rights. Contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.