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Minnesota high court upholds mandatory DNA samples from convicted criminals

The Minnesota Supreme Court [official website] ruled Wednesday that a Minnesota statute requiring people convicted of crimes to submit a DNA sample does not violate [opinion, PDF] the Fourth Amendment [text] right to unreasonable search. The Minnesota law [text], which was enacted in 2010, requires an offender to submit a DNA test, upon sentencing, before release from prison and upon transfer from another state. The appellant had been charged with a felony but agreed to take a sentence reduction in response to entering a guilty plea. He claimed that the DNA requirement violated his equal protection and should be considered an unreasonable search. The district court and the appellate court rejected that argument, and he appealed to the state's highest court. In Wednesday's opinion Justice Dietzen agreed with the lower court and held such a requirement was not a violation.

The State's legitimate governmental interests outweigh appellant's reduced expectation of privacy following a misdemeanor conviction arising out of the same set of circumstances as his felony charge. We conclude that the physical intrusion of Johnson's bodily integrity to acquire the DNA sample is minimal, especially when compared to the other intrusions Johnson is subjected to as part of his probation.
In the dissent, Justice Meyer stated that the collection of DNA constituted an intrusion upon personal security and dignity and instead found the privacy invasion highly intrusive. He would have found the DNA requirement to be unconstitutional when applied to someone only convicted of a misdemeanor.

In August 2011 a California Appeals Court struck down the state law [JURIST report] that required DNA samples be taken broadly from any adult arrested or charged with a felony. US Attorney General Eric Holder instructed federal prosecutors in November 2010 to use DNA evidence as much as possible [JURIST report], reversing the Bush administration policy. The US District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld the constitutionality [JURIST report] of mandatory DNA collection for all persons arrested or detained under federal authority in May 2009.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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