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Federal Statute Requiring Supervised Releasee to Submit DNA Sample Unconstitutional

A Massachusetts federal district court has entered a preliminary injunction barring the federal probation office from requiring a person on supervised release to submit a DNA sample. The Court's order comes after it found that Leo Weikert, Jr., who was on supervised release following his release on an escape conviction, had a likelihood of success at prevailing on his claim that the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 (DNA Act), 42 U.S.C. § 14135a (2004), is unconstitutional.

The DNA act provides that "the probation official responsible ... may use or authorize the use of such means as are reasonably necessary to detain, restrain, and collect a DNA sample from an individual who refuses to cooperate in the collection of the sample." Any person convicted of a federal felony, of an offense under chapter 109A of Title 18, of any crime of violence, or any attempt or conspiracy to commit any of these crimes must submit a DNA sample when on probation or parole supervision or other supervised release.

The DNA sample, once collected, is then analyzed and placed into the combined DNA Index System Database (CODIS), which is "a massive centrally-managed database linking DNA samples culled from federal, state, and territorial DNA collection programs, as well as profiles drawn from crime-scene evidence, unidentified remains, and genetic samples voluntarily provided by relatives of missing persons." CODIS is used to (i) match one forensic crime scene sample to another forensic crime scene sample; and (ii) match evidence obtained at the scene of a crime to a particular offender's profile, thereby allowing the FBI to monitor the criminal activity of known offenders.

Weikert moved for an injunction barring a DNA sample being taken from him, asserting Fourth Amendment violations. The Court applied a special needs test. It found the "government's immediate purpose in collecting DNA samples is to solve crimes," which is clearly "not beyond the normal need for law enforcement."

The Court also found the taking of a DNA sample intrudes on an individual's privacy interest. While the privacy interest of a person on supervised release is slightly less than that of a free individual, the Court held it "is still significant given the intrusion involved in taking a blood sample and then storing the information in a government database."

That data is never expunged, and "an intrusion into an individual's personal identity through the analysis of that blood also exists, not to mention the danger of a later publicizing of the information gleaned from the sample." The Court noted that its ruling disagreed with all other Circuit Courts that have considered the issue. It found all factors present to grant a preliminary injunction and ordered that a DNA sample not be taken from Weikert. See: United States v. Weikert, 421 F.Supp.2d 259 (D.Mass. 2006)

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Related legal case

United States v. Weikert