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.

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.

As of September 2019*:

52,057   samples identified
3,943   samples collected
3,742   samples submitted for testing
3,626   samples tested to completion
3,465   profiles uploaded to CODIS
104   CODIS hits
31   CODIS hits to sex offenders
6   CODIS hits to serial sex offenders
50   CODIS hits to other crimes
14   cases charged
9   convictions **

* Cumulative performance metrics are updated quarterly based on state and local level reports. Therefore they do not reflect real-time data.
** also includes plea bargains


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., 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

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.