District Judge: Felony Suspects Must Submit DNA

A U.S. District Court judge ruled that mandatory DNA collection for all felony suspects is constitutional, dealing a major blow to civil rights advocates and criminal defense attorneys.

Judge Gregory J. Hallows on Thursday upheld the 2006 DNA Fingerprint Act, a federal law that allows law enforcement officers to collect DNA from anyone “arrested, facing charges, or convicted” of felony crimes.

The case before Judge Hallows involved a California man arrested on child pornography charges who refused to submit to a DNA swab test, arguing that it violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Civil rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that allowing police to collect DNA from anyone arrest, not just convicted, of a felony crime opens a door for abuse.

“We think this ruling is incorrect. It ignores the presumption of innocence and it does not pay enough attention to the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Michael Risher, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

Most states’ statutes only allow for DNA collection after a conviction. The new ruling could greatly increase not only the number of individuals with DNA in the federal database, but the practice of false arrests to collect DNA, Risher argued.

Police could, for example, arrest a suspect of a crime on an unrelated charge in order to collect DNA that could be used to incriminate him in the original crime.

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