Officials from area police and sheriff's departments say they're prepared to follow a new law that requires them to retain certain biological evidence for 30 years.
Prior to the law taking effect July 6, departments set their own policies on how long to keep evidence such as blood, hair or fluid samples obtained from crime scenes.
The change is aimed at better maintaining DNA evidence that could exonerate people who've been wrongly convicted or put guilty criminals behind bars.
Law enforcement officials said they like that the new law creates a statewide protocol for evidence retention in high-stakes cases such as murder, manslaughter and rape.
Erie County Sheriff Terry Lyons said his department typically retained biological evidence until the end of the appeals process -- usually eight or nine years.
He doesn't think the long-term retention will be an extra burden on his department, nor does he believe finding room to keep evidence will be a problem.
"I know some of the early concerns were, if you have a vehicle where DNA had been collected, do you have to keep the whole vehicle?" he said.
Lawmakers responded by writing into the bill that departments have to keep only enough of the evidence to obtain a DNA profile.
Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said his department retains biological evidence in felony cases indefinitely.
Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard, Perkins Police Chief Ken Klamar and Sandusky police Sgt. John Orzech said long-term retention of biological evidence was case-by-case at their departments.
The officials agreed the new retention rules would have only a minor impact on cost and labor.
But they expressed concerns about another component of the legislation that's not set to take effect until next year.
Starting July 1, 2011, agencies will be required to take oral DNA swabs from all people arrested on felony charges. That's a major change from current laws, which require only convicted felons to submit to DNA collection.
The department leaders said there are many unanswered questions about who will pay for the additional supplies and the labor involved in the collection, not to mention legal concerns.
"What happens to the swab if my case is dismissed?" Bratton asked. "How do we put it in the system if there isn't a conviction?"
According to the legislation, the arresting agency will be responsible for administering the DNA swab and sending it to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. County sheriffs are already looking into administering all swabs at the county jails, since that's where most people arrested on felony charges are incarcerated. They believe that will streamline the process.
"It'll be a bit of a change," Orzech said. "Getting the swabs is not that big of a deal. It's going to be documentation and how that process is going to take place."
Bratton said he's not sure getting the swabs will be so easy.
"What if the guy is drunk and uncooperative -- do we use force?" he said. "Do we have to get a search warrant?"
Despite remaining questions about the DNA collection, Lyons said he thinks it will help solve crimes in the long run.
"I certainly understand the rationale for changing the law," he said. "I think collecting DNA from anyone charged with a felony would be a good thing ... The database will collect a lot more DNA profiles. I think you'll see more cold cases solved."
A third mandatory change involves suspect line-ups.
Departments will be required to perform "blind" photo lineups, meaning the person administering the lineup must not know the identity of the suspect. If no such officer is available the photos can be contained in folders so they are only viewable to the witness. Lawmakers believe this will alleviate any intentional or unintentional influence of a witness.