The Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that DNA can be collected by law enforcement from people arrested but not yet convicted of serious crimes. Questions remain, however, about the degree to which this practice solves more crimes and about the costs of its implementation.

An Urban Institute study funded by the National Institute of Justice found that arrestee DNA laws across 28 states vary widely, their implementation can be costly, and their impact on crime solving is uncertain.

Implementation of arrestee DNA laws is shaped by state-specific provisions about who is eligible for DNA collection, when DNA is collected, and the process of removing DNA profiles from federal and state databases. These laws, depending on their requirements, can be difficult for laboratories and law enforcement agencies to implement, according to the study.

“While arrestee DNA laws have expanded DNA databases and linked some individuals to unsolved crimes, in most states it is not possible to discern how much they aid in solving crimes,” said Julie Samuels, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow in the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.