Note: This scorecard has been superseded. Please check for later editions.
Fifteen years ago, Louisiana adopted a law mandating that "[a] person who is arrested for a felony sex offense or other specified offense . . . shall have a DNA sample drawn or taken at the same time he is fingerprinted pursuant to the booking procedure." Today, the movement to acquire DNA from individuals not convicted of a crime and to check it against state and national databases of DNA profiles from unsolved crimes is snowballing. As of early 2012, 26 states and the federal government had laws providing for DNA sampling before any conviction is obtained. Most other countries with DNA databases also collect samples on arrest.
The DNA-on-arrest laws in the U.S. had a placid childhood, with surprisingly few challenges to their constitutionality. This period of calm is over. Conflicting opinions are emerging on the reasonableness of these searches under the Fourth Amendment. Within the next few years, it seems likely that, as Kansas State Representative Pat Colloton (R), who authored the bill that initiated her state's DNA sampling program predicted, "this issue will go to the United States Supreme Court." (Gramlich 2006). In fact, if U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts has his way, the Court will take up the issue in its 2012-2013 Term.
This posting presents a scoreboard on the litigation and scholarly commentary to date. If any players or contests have been omitted, I hope that readers will correct those omissions by leaving a comment. The law review articles listed in the table do not include ones on the constitutionality of convicted-offender databases. Authors who have contended that these databases are unconstitutional would reach the same conclusion for a database that includes arrestees, but the lower courts have resoundingly rejected their analyses. Therefore, little would be gained by keeping track of the many articles on convicted-offender databases.
The tables make the point that as yet there is no consensus on the constitutionality of taking DNA samples during a custodial arrest with the intention of running database searches (in the absence of a warrant and probable cause to believe that the search will produce a hit in the database).
Table 1. Case law (as of August 17, 2012)Appellate: State Supreme Courts (1.5-1.5)
- Mario W. v. Kaipio, Commissioner, No. CV-11-0344-PR (Ariz. June 27, 2012) (state arrestee law for juveniles constitutional insofar as it allows sampling as a booking procedure, but pre-conviction analysis of the sample is unconstitutional under a totality-of-the-circumstances standard and an analogy to searching containers)
- King v. State, 42 A.3d 549 (Md. 2012) (state arrestee law unconstitutional "as applied" under "totality of the circumstances" balancing test), pet.for cert. filed, Aug. 14, 2012
- Anderson v. Commonwealth, 650 S.E.2d 702 (Va. 2007) (state arrestee law upheld under unspecified balancing test and analogy to fingerprinting as a booking procedure)
- Related case: State v. Franklin, 76 So.3d 423 (La. 2011) (no search warrant was required to take a DNA sample from a murder defendant for use in the murder investigation because he had to submit a sample "as a routine incident of booking" anyway)
- People v. Buza, 129 Cal.Rptr.3d 753 (Cal. Ct. App. 2011) (unconstitutional under balancing tests), rev. granted, 262 P.3d 854 (Cal. 2011)
- In re Welfare of C.T.L., 722 N.W.2d 484 (Minn. Ct. App. 2006) (state arrestee law struck down as per se unreasonable without probable cause and a warrant)
- United States v. Mitchell, 652 F.3d 387 (3d Cir. 2011) (en banc) (federal arrestee law upheld under "totality of circumstances" balancing test)
- Haskell v. Harris, 669 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2012) (state arrestee law upheld under "totality of circumstances" balancing test), reh'g en banc granted, 2012 WL 3038593 (July 25, 2012)
- United States v. Pool, 621 F.3d 1213 (9th Cir. 2010) (federal arrestee law upheld under "totality of circumstances" balancing test), vacated as moot, 659 F.3d 761 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc)
- Related case: Friedman v. Boucher, 580 F.3d 847 (9th Cir. 2009) (an arrest does not justify DNA sampling without an applicable statute)
- United States v. Thomas, No. 10-CR-6172 CJS, 2011 WL 1627321 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 27, 2011) (federal arrestee law upheld under "special needs" balancing test), dismissed, No. 11-1742 (2d Cir. Sept. 20, 2011), ECF No. 43.
- Amended Order Denying the Government's Motion to Compel DNA Samples, United States v. Frank, No. CR-092075-EFS-1(E.D. Wash. Mar. 10, 2010), available at http://www.dnaresource.com/documents/USvFrank.pdf (applying totality balancing to a limited list of interests to find compulsory collection before conviction unreasonable)
- Related case: United States v. Purdy, No. 8:05CR204, 2005 WL 3465721 (D. Neb. 2005) (forcibly taking a buccal swab from an arrestee violates Fourth Amendment in the absence of a statute providing for a uniform and limited system of sampling)
- United States v. Mitchell, 681 F.Supp.2d 597 (W.D.Pa. 2009) (federal law held unenforceable), rev'd, 652 F.3d 387 (3d Cir. 2011) (en banc)
- United States v. Pool, 645 F.Supp.2d 903 (E.D.Cal. 2009) (federal arrestee law upheld under "totality of circumstances" balancing test), aff'd, 621 F.3d 1213 (9th Cir. 2010), affirming opinion vacated as moot, 659 F.3d 761 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc)
- Haskell v. Brown, 677 F.Supp.2d 1187 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (denying a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of California's arrestee sampling law in large part because the balance of interests establishes that the requirement is reasonable), aff'd sub nom. Haskell v. Harris, 669 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2012)
Table 2. Law Review Articles and Notes (as of August 17, 2012)
- D.H. Kaye, The Constitutionality of DNA Sampling on Arrest, 10 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 455-508 (2001) (a statute with sufficient protections of private, nonidentifying information is constitutional under the special needs exception)
- Tracey Maclin, Is Obtaining an Arrestee's DNA a Valid Special Needs Search Under the Fourth Amendment? What Should (and Will) the Supreme Court Do?, 34 J.L. Med. & Ethics 165, 178-82 (2006) (predicting that the Supreme Court will uphold taking DNA from arrestees under a balancing test but that it should reject the practice as per se unreasonable)
- D. H. Kaye, Who Needs Special Needs? On the Constitutionality of Collecting DNA and Other Biometric Data from Arrestees, 34 J.L. Med. & Ethics 188 (2006) (proposing a "biometric information exception" to the warrant requirement)
- Brian Gallini, Step Out of the Car: License, Registration, and DNA Please, 62 Ark. L. Rev. 475 (2009) (Arkansas law unconstitutional because it does not require a judicial finding of probable cause arrest, contains inadequate safeguards to protect the samples and records, and because it does not fall within an established exception to the warrant requirement)
- Kevin Lapp & Joy Radice, A Better Balancing: Reconsidering Pre-Conviction DNA Extraction from Federal Arrestees, 90 N. Car. L. Rev. Addendum 157 (2012) (pre-conviction DNA extraction should be permitted only after a neutral third-party finding of probable cause and DNA samples should be destroyed)
- ---, Drawing Lines: Unrelated Probable Cause as a Prerequisite to Early DNA Collection,
91 N.C. L. Rev. Addendum No. 1 (forthcoming 2012
- David H. Kaye, A Fourth Amendment Theory for Arrestee DNA and Other Biometric Databases, U. 15 Pa. J. Const. L. No. 4 (forthcoming 2013)
- Related article: Robert Molko, The Perils of Suspicionless DNA Extraction of Arrestees Under California Proposition 69: Liability of the California Prosecutor for Fourth Amendment Violation? The Uncertainty Continues in 2010, 37 W. St. U. L. Rev. 183 (2010) (reaching no conclusions)
- Martha L. Lawson, Note, Personal Does Not Always Equal "Private": The Constitutionality of Requiring DNA Samples from Convicted Felons and Arrestees, 9 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 645 (2001) (the government's interest in mandatory testing of all those arrested outweighs individuals' privacy interests)
- Reneé A. Germaine, Comment, "You Have the Right to Remain Silent. . . You Have No Right to Your DNA" Louisiana's DNA Detection of Sexual and Violent Offender's Act: An Impermissible Infringement on Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure, 22 J. Marshall J. Computer Info. L. 759 (2004) (unconstitutional under balancing test other than special needs)
- Robert Berlet, Comment, A Step Too Far: Due Process and DNA Collection in California after Proposition 69, 40 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1481 (2007) (with certain modifications, arrestee DNA sampling as provided for under California law would be constitutional)
- John D. Biancamano, Note, Arresting DNA: The Evolving Nature of DNA Collection Statutes and Their Fourth Amendment Justifications, 70 Ohio St. L.J. 619 (2009) (unconstitutional under special needs and totality of the circumstances tests)
- Corey Preston, Note, Faulty Foundations: How the False Analogy to Routine Fingerprinting Undermines the Argument for Arrestee DNA Sampling, 19 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 475 (2010)
- Ashley Eiler, Note, Arrested Development: Reforming the Federal All-Arrestee DNA Collection Statute to Comply with the Fourth Amendment, 79 Geo. Wash. L.Rev. 1201, 1220 (2011)
- Lauren N. Hobson, Note, North Carolina's Arrested Development: Fourth Amendment Problems in the DNA Database Act of 2010, 89 N.C. L. Rev. 1309 (2011) (unconstitutional because no existing exception to the Warrant Clause applies)
- Kimberly A. Polanco, Note, Constitutional Law-The Fourth Amendment Challenge to DNA Sampling of Arrestees Pursuant to the Justice for All Act of 2004: A Proposed Modification to the Traditional Fourth Amendment Test of Reasonableness, 27 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 483 (2005) (constitutional under a balancing test)
- Related note: Jacqueline K. S. Lew, Note, The Next Step in DNA Databank Expansion? The Constitutionality of DNA Sampling of Former Arrestees, 57 Hastings L.J. 199 (2005) (unconstitutional as applied to "former arrestees")
John Gramlich, States Collecting DNA from Arrestees, July 27, 2006, http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=129960, accessed Nov. 28, 2009
Martin Kaste, Wash. Lawmakers Fight for DNA Sampling at Arrest, All Things Considered, Feb. 28, 2012, http://www.npr.org/2012/02/28/147225828/wash-lawmakers-fight-for-dna-sampling-at-arrest, accessed Aug. 17, 2012
15 La . Rev. Stat. § 609(A)(1) ("A person who is arrested for a felony sex offense or other specified offense, including an attempt, conspiracy, criminal solicitation, or accessory after the fact of such offenses on or after September 1, 1999, shall have a DNA sample drawn or taken at the same time he is fingerprinted pursuant to the booking procedure."), derived from Act No. 737, approved July 9, 1997, and amended in 2003 (adding the phrase "including an attempt, conspiracy, criminal solicitation, or accessory after the fact of such offenses")