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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

   Question: What is the convicted offender database?

Answer: A databank of DNA profiles is being compiled of offenders in the state of Texas. This databank can be used to identify suspects in crimes where semen, blood, or other biological evidence is left by the perpetrator. Like fingerprints, body fluids left at a crime scene can positively identify assailants. By using the DNA databank, even criminal investigations with no suspects can be solved. The DNA database was mandated by House Bill 40, which went into effect September 1, 1995. The Program officially began on January 1, 1996, with the creation of the CODIS Section and the start of sample collections. The DPS CODIS program is part of the National CODIS Program.

   Question: How must an individual be trained before taking a buccal swab sample?

Answer: Initial training for the collection of DNA buccal swab samples will consist of the viewing of a DPS training video. The DNA buccal swab database card (LAB-13R) contains a certification that the collector has been properly trained in DNA buccal swab sample collection procedures. When the collector signs the card, they are certifying that they have watched the training video, read the instructions in the collection kit, and followed the instructions for the collection of the specimen.

   Question: For buccal swab arrestee samples, can the sampling law enforcement agency rely only on an offender’s computerized criminal history to check for a prior conviction or deferred adjudication?

Answer: The DPS computerized criminal history files consist of data sent in by local law enforcement. Therefore, they are only as complete and up-to-date as the information DPS has received. Agencies should make use of any and all resources they have available in order to ensure they have fulfilled their duty to check for prior convictions.

   Question: An eligible arrestee has to have been previously convicted of Burglary of a Habitation or an offense listed in the list of felonies. Does this include deferred adjudications?

Answer: Yes. The arrestee must have a previous conviction or have been placed on deferred adjudication for Burglary of a Habitation or an offense listed in the list of felonies. Please note that the criminal history of the offender must show a conviction or deferred adjudication for the felony, not just an arrest.

   Question: Do eligible individuals for buccal swabs include juveniles?

Answer: No. Buccal swab sampling does not include juveniles. All eligible individuals described in the legislation refer to adults only.

   Question: How does an agency handle an offender who refuses to give a buccal swab sample?

Answer: The law requires that eligible individuals give a sample. Each agency should develop a policy, in conjunction with their legal department, to determine to what extent the use of force should be employed as means of fulfilling their responsibility to enforce the law.

   Question: Can an employee of a county (e.g., a county nurse) take a DNA buccal swab for the police department or sheriff's office that has custody of an offender?

Answer: Yes. The arresting officer does not have to directly take a DNA buccal swab sample. They must, however, cause the sample to be taken. The person taking the sample must have an official association with the responsible agency. Therefore, the sample may not be taken by a trustee, probationer, or volunteer. Any individual taking a buccal sample must be properly trained to do so by, at a minimum, watching the DPS training video. The officer or a representative of his/her agency, who has responsibility for the offender, shall supervise the sample collection.

   Question: Does a chain of custody need to be followed to submit a sample?

Answer: A DNA database sample is not evidence. Therefore, the only chain of custody involved in taking a sample is that the individual taking the sample should open each kit one at a time and date and seal the kit before the next sample is opened. The kit is then simply put in the mail as soon as possible.

   Question: How can an agency find out if the DPS CODIS Lab has received a submitted sample or if an offender’s profile is in the CODIS database?

Answer: The agency may first check the offender’s computerized criminal history. A "Y" in the DNA field means that a sample has been received, accepted, and profiled. While "N" means a sample has not been profiled, however, a sample may have still been received. You can then make a request to the CODIS Lab for verification of receipt. The request must be made by a representative of a criminal justice agency and faxed to the DPS CODIS Lab (512- 424-2386) on the agency's letterhead. Please include the offender's name, SID number, and date of birth when making the request. The information requested will be faxed back to the agency

   Question: Who is included in the database?

Answer: Initially, HB 40 only covered sex offenders. Beginning on September 1, 1999, HB 1188 amended HB 40 to require any adult sent to TDCJ--who had been convicted of Murder, Aggravated Assault, Burglary of a Habitation--or any other offense that requires registration as a registered sex offender to submit a sample to CODIS. All juvenile offenders committed to TYC for those same offenses are also required to submit a sample. Beginning on September 1, 2001 SB 1380 requires that any adult or juvenile who is placed on Sex Offender Registration (including those on Community Supervision) to submit a sample to the CODIS program for inclusion in the databank. In addition to being ordered for new probation cases, DNA samples can be required from individuals on deferred adjudication, and those currently on probation can have their conditions amended to include required submission of a sample. Adults can be required to submit a sample regardless of the date of the offense; juveniles must have committed the offense on or after January 1, 1996, to be eligible for inclusion in the database. The offenders sampled under these statutes must provide a blood sample for DNA analysis. Under SB 638, certain persons who were arrested for a felony sex offense after February 2002--and who have a prior conviction--or persons indicted for a felony sex crime will also be required to submit a buccal swab for DNA analysis. The laws governing CODIS are found in Government Code Chapter 411, subchapter G (beginning at 411.141). The rules governing CODIS are found in the Texas Administrative Code Title 37, Part 1, Chapter 28.

   Question: How can I get a case submitted to the CODIS program?

Answer: DNA profiles from a private laboratory can not be entered into the CODIS database. In order to get a case entered into CODIS, the evidence must be submitted to a CODIS participating laboratory. The DPS has eight regional crime labs who have CODIS capabilities (Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Garland, Houston, Lubbock, Waco, and Weslaco) and there are seven agencies outside DPS who have CODIS capabilities (Austin Police Department, Bexar County Criminal Investigations Laboratory, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, Houston Police Department, Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences-Dallas, University North Texas Health Science Center-Fort Worth, and Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office). DNA profiles analyzed by a CODIS participating laboratory are entered into the state and national databases. A DNA profile from any lab (public or private) can be searched against the convicted offender database by faxing the profile to the CODIS state administrator. Faxed profiles are searched against the state but not the national database. Contact the DPS CODIS Laboratory to determine the correct format for submitting a DNA search request.

   Question: How successful is the CODIS program?

Answer: As of October 31, 2011, there have been over 7,700 statewide cold offender hits (convicted offenders linked to unsolved cases), and 800 cold forensic hits (cases matched to the same perpetrator when they were not known to be linked) . Any one with questions regarding the CODIS Program can contact Rebecca Vieh, CODIS Program Liaison, at 512-424-2383; or the nearest DPS DNA Laboratory. Click here for state/national CODIS statistics

   Question: How are samples collected?

Answer: The Department of Public Safety provides collection kits free of charge. The kit contains everything necessary to take a DNA database sample. Collecting a sample consists of drawing one tube of blood, completing an information card, and rolling thumbprints of the subject. A ten-minute videotape is available to familiarize you with the collection process. To ensure the integrity of the sample and prevent tampering, the law enforcement or probation officer should supervise the blood collection and keep the sample until it is mailed.

   Question: Who collects the samples?

Answer: One tube of blood is required for the DNA profile tests. Only a trained healthcare worker can draw the blood sample. Prison inmates and committed juveniles are sampled at the institution where they are housed. For probationers, the probation offices must identify someone to draw the blood, so each probation office should find a solution to meet their particular needs.

   Question: What do we do with the sample?

Answer: Follow the instructions provided in the kit in order to properly obtain the sample. Drop the postage-paid kit into the US mail as soon as possible. The samples do not need to be refrigerated if mailed on the same day. DO NOT freeze or subject the sample to excessive heat (as in the trunk of a car) under any circumstances. Our laboratory will analyze the blood to determine the subject's DNA profile. The DNA profile can only be used for law enforcement identification; it does not tell anything about the subject's physical traits or disease conditions. The DNA profile will be stored on our computers and compared to evidence in non-suspect cases.