November 16, 2006
No automatic DNA collection before conviction
In the first opinion of its kind, the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently struck down a law authorizing the taking of DNA samples from those who have been charged but not convicted of crimes. In In re Welfare of C.T.L., 722 N.W.2d 484 (Minn. Ct. App. 2006), a juvenile was charged with assault and aiding and abetting a robbery. The state moved for an order requiring him to provide a biological specimen for DNA testing as required by an amendment to Minnesota's offender DNA database law, Minn.Stat. § 299C.105 (Supp.2005).
The Court Appeals agreed with the defendant that automatic DNA sampling before any conviction is obtained violates the Fourth Amendment. The court distinguished the many cases upholding the constitutionality of compelling convicted offenders to contribute samples to a databank for identification as follows: "an individual who has been convicted of an offense has a reduced expectation of privacy and . . . the reduced expectation of privacy . . . is not present here."
At least six other states and the federal government require DNA sampling before conviction. If a court upholds such a law, I predict that the Supreme Court will weigh in. Before this opinion (which is none too deep), the issue was debated by a few law professors. See, e.g., Who Needs Special Needs? On the Constitutionality of Collecting DNA and Other Biometric Data from Arrestee, 34 J. L., Med. & Ethics, 188 (2006); The Constitutionality of DNA Sampling on Arrest, 10 Cornell J. L. & Public Policy 455 (2001).