Federal appeals court upholds DNA database for nonviolent felons

[JURIST] All convicted federal felons must provide DNA samples to a federal database available to police departments throughout the country, a divided panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday. Judge Margaret McKeown, writing for the majority, upheld a 2004 amendment [summary] to the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act (DNA Act) [summary], requiring any felon in custody, or on probation, parole, or supervised release to submit DNA samples to the FBI's Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) [official website; FBI backgrounder, PDF]. The original act, passed in 2000, only required DNA samples from convicted felons of qualifying offenses, relating mostly to violent and sexual crimes. The 2004 amendment extended the qualifying crimes to cover a nonviolent drug offender convicted in Washington. Thomas Kriesel served his prison sentence, and later refused to submit his DNA sample to the CODIS database while under three additional years of supervised release. The Ninth Circuit upheld the 2004 amendment, writing that:

[T]he DNA Act is constitutional because the government's significant interests in identifying supervised releases, preventing recidivism, and solving past crimes outweigh the diminished privacy interests that may be advanced by a convicted felon currently serving a term of supervised release.
Several other circuits have already upheld the DNA Act on similar grounds. In 2005, the Third Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that a convicted bank robber had to submit DNA samples [JURIST report] to the CODIS database. Similarly, a New Jersey state appeals court upheld a comparable state law [JURIST report] in 2005.

The Ninth Circuit ruling does not cover a 2006 amendment [text] to the DNA Act, which calls for DNA collection from arrestees or non-citizens detained by the US. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.


 

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