Beyond the Kit

Lawfully Owed DNA

Lawfully owed DNA is defined as a DNA sample from a qualifying offender who should have their sample in CODIS (based on the type and time of the offense in relation to applicable state law), but from whom a sample has never been collected or submitted to a lab for testing. Investigators and prosecutors rely on samples in CODIS to help solve cases and bring justice to victims. The solvability of cases increases as the database becomes populated with more samples. Thus, collecting lawfully owed DNA from qualifying offenders contributes to a comprehensive approach to addressing sexual assault reform.

In FY2016, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) added a purpose area to the SAKI solicitation for the collection of lawfully owed DNA. Funding awarded under this purpose area can be used to 1) conduct a census of convicted offenders who lawfully owe DNA, 2) develop a DNA collection plan and 3) review, improve, and implement optimal collection protocols to ensure sample collection policies are adhered to and that samples are being obtained from all eligible individuals for CODIS entry. In FY2016, the Cuyahoga County (OH) Prosecutor's Office was the first jurisdiction to receive funding. The Nevada Office of the Attorney General received funding in FY2017 for the collection of lawfully owed DNA. In FY2018, BJA made awards to four additional jurisdictions including, County of Washington (OR), State Attorney's Office 4th Judicial Circuit (FL), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (NC) and West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services. In FY2019, the Cuyahoga County (OH) Prosecutor's Office received an additional award, and Washington State Attorney General's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety received funding under this purpose area for the first time. In FY2020, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and City of Duluth (MN) received their first lawfully owed DNA SAKI awards and the Washington State Attorney General's Office received its second. In FY2021, the State Attorney's Office 4th Judicial Circuit (FL) and Washington State Attorney General's Office received additional awards, while the City of Fresno (CA) received their first lawfully owed DNA SAKI award. In FY2022, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, the Idaho State Police, and the New York City Police Department all received their first award under this purpose area. Also in FY2022, the Texas Department of Public Safety received their second award for the collection of lawfully owed DNA.

The data metrics below are specific to lawfully owed DNA samples and are mutually exclusive from the unsubmitted SAK metrics on the Performance Metrics and Research page.

379,461   samples identified
11,870   samples collected
13,530   samples sent for testing
11,534   samples tested to completion
10,800   profiles uploaded to CODIS
258   CODIS hits
99   CODIS hits to sex offenders
17   CODIS hits to serial sex offenders
12   CODIS hits to homicides
118   CODIS hits to other crimes
34   cases charged
12   convictions

  Note: Cumulative performance metrics are updated quarterly based on state and local level reports.


Collecting Lawfully Owed DNA
To resolve violent crimes, investigators and prosecutors often rely on DNA samples to build a successful case with the assistance of CODIS. Collecting DNA samples from qualifying offenders increases the number of profiles in CODIS, therefore leading to increased probabilities of a "hit". This document shows the importance of collecting lawfully owed DNA and the importance of implementing DNA collection laws.

Collecting Lawfully Owed DNA to Assist with Sexual Assault Investigations
In this webinar, representatives from the Cuyahoga County SAKI site discuss using SAKI funding to address lawfully owed DNA, including current efforts to collect lawfully owed DNA as well as legal concerns and issues encountered during this process. Data is presented on a number of lawfully owed DNA profiles that were not previously in CODIS in Cuyahoga County.

Lawfully Owed DNA Part 2
This webinar is presented by Amy Jeanguenat from Mindgen LLC and Jayann Sepich, Founder of DNA Saves. This webinar, the second in a two-part series, focuses on recognizing the importance of obtaining and processing lawfully owed DNA samples in adequate time to recognize the full benefits of the CODIS database. Jayann Sepich discusses the relevance of lawfully owed DNA databases and the complexity of data collection. Amy Jeanguenat discusses considerations and strategies for assessing the scope of sample collection, tracking, and processing within a jurisdiction and the impact to the crime laboratory.

Lovell, R. (2022). Detailing the process of identifying and the outcomes of efforts to address lawfully "owed" DNA. Journal of Forensic Science 00:1-13.

Lovell , R., Klingenstein, J., McGuire, M., & Luminais, M. (2019). Completing a Census of Individuals Who Lawfully "Owe" DNA in Cuyahoga County. 1-18.

Lovell , R., & Klingenstein, J. (2019). Outcomes from Efforts to Swab Offenders Who Lawfully "Owe" DNA in Cuyahoga County. 1-19.

News and Events

How to catch a serial rapist? Study finds Cleveland, Cuyahoga authorities failed to collect DNA from nearly 15,000 suspects over 7 years
The Plain Dealer Cleveland, Oct 31, 2022
This article highlights the ongoing efforts of the Cuyahoga County (OH) in collecting DNA from arrestees and convicted offenders as part of their Lawfully Owed DNA SAKI award. Read more to find out how the team in Cleveland is collecting DNA from these individuals.

Reno Police arrest sexual assault suspect from 1998 cold case
News 4 Staff, News 4, Nov 29, 2020
DNA from a retro-active collection from suspect on an unrelated case, lead to his arrest in two sexual assault cases in 1998.

Man charged for kidnapping, and sexual assault in 2002 cold case
13 On Your Side Staff, 13 On Your Side, Nov 20, 2020
Wyoming Police say they've arrested the person who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 4-year-old girl more than 18 years ago thanks to DNA being collected for an unrelated offense in Michigan.

Fayetteville police use DNA to make arrest in 28-year-old rape case
Gilbert Baez, WRAL, Nov 16, 2020
Lawfully owed DNA leads to arrest in rape case from 1992 in Fayetteville, NC

Texas DPS: DNA collection law helped solve hundreds of crimes in its first year
Billy Gates, KXAN, Nov 13, 2020
The Krystal Jean Baker Act, which allows the collection of DNA samples from those charged with any of 24 different felonies and compares them with existing crime scene DNA samples in a nationwide database, has helped Texas DPS solve more than 250 open investigations in its first year, the agency says.

DNA search warrant leads to rape arrest in Kansas cold case 17 years later
Jason Tidd, The Wichita Eagle, Apr 1, 2020
Kansas law enforcement officers have made a rape arrest following a breakthrough in a cold case from 17 years ago based on DNA.

State Attorney's Office gets $2.3 million to help sexual assault victims
News 4 Jax, Oct 17, 2018
This news article discusses the federal funding that the State Attorney's Office in the 4th Judicial Circuit (FL) received to expand DNA databases by collecting "lawfully owed" DNA samples from convicted offenders and arrestees.

'Fallen through the cracks:' Overdue DNA swabs link to murders, sexual assaults
The Plain Dealer, May 13, 2018
This news article discusses the process that Cuyahoga County (OH) practitioners have established since estimating about 15,000 DNA samples were not collected from arrestees and convicted offenders. Their efforts to collect these previously missing samples have led to linkages to several major crimes including murder, sexual assault, aggravated robbery and more.