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Federal Law Requiring Felons Submit DNA Sample Constitutional

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a federal statute, 42 U.S.C. § 14135a, that requires persons convicted of federal felonies to submit a DNA sample is constitutional. That ruling comes in the appeal of Bobbie J. Conley, who was convicted of bank fraud for "shorting" bank customers and placing the money in her savings account.

Conley was ordered to submit a DNA sample as a stipulation of her supervised release. She appealed that order, arguing it violates the Fourth Amendment. The Tennessee federal court's order was based on § 14135a, which provides that persons in custody or on release, parole, or probation must submit a DNA sample if convicted of a felony.

The Sixth Circuit rejected Conley's argument that Fourth Amendment requires "a showing of individual suspicion" for a search to be presumed reasonable." Conley also argued that law enforcement requires "special needs" to legitimize the collection of DNA.

The Court held that Conley's right to privacy in her DNA information does not override the governments 'special needs' in: 1) obtaining reliable proof of a felon's identity, 2) deterring convicted felons from committing additional crimes, or 3) protecting communities." Such a blood test is a "minimal intrusion," the Court said. "DNA markers that are used for identification purposes to not carry the important medical data that Conley complains will be subject to repeated searches.

When considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court held "the government's interest in properly identifying criminals and preventing them from further victimizing the community outweighs the limited expectations of privacy of a convicted felon." The district court's order was affirmed. See: United States v. Conley, 453 F.3d 674 (6th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

United States v. Conley