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Taking DNA Samples from CT Sex Offenders Upheld

Plaintiffs challenged a Connecticut statute that required all convicted sex offenders incarcerated on its effective date to submit blood samples for analysis and inclusion in a DNA bank.

Taking a blood sample is a search under the Fourth Amendment. However, in some circumstances, "generally outside the traditional law enforcement setting," "special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement" make a requirement of probable cause or individualized suspicion impracticable. The "special needs" exception applies when "a significant governmental interest, such as the maintenance of institutional security, public safety, and order, must prevail over a minimal intrusion on an individual's privacy rights to justify a search on less than individualized suspicion." (78)

This exception applies to the prison setting. Prisoners' rights "are subject to restrictions dictated by concerns for institutional security, order, and discipline." (78) This statute has nothing to do with prison security and none of the prison "special needs" cases "is precisely on point. Nevertheless, the statute may still be constitutional if defendants can show some other significant governmental interest in the form of 'special needs beyond normal law enforcement,' even if those 'special needs' are not tied directly to institutional concerns."

Under this standard, the statute is upheld. Defendants cite studies indicating a high rate of recidivism among sexual offenders. DNA evidence is particularly useful in investigating sex offenses because of the nature of the evidence and the demonstrated reliability of DNA testing. The existence of the data bank will also deter these offenders from committing similar offenses in the future. Balanced against this is the drawing of a blood sample, which the Supreme Court has characterized as a minimal intrusion. The lack of discretion in determining whose blood to sample further supports the statute's reasonableness. Insofar as the analysis of the sample, once taken, constitutes a further intrusion, the statute provides adequate safeguards to keep it minimal; it regulates the manner of test and analysis, restricts access to the results, and provides for expungement upon dismissal or reversal of conviction.

The court disavows the Fourth Circuit's reasoning in Jones v. Murray that cases involving prisoners are a separate category for Fourth Amendment purposes and that the interest in identification of convicted felons for resolving past and future crimes therefore outweighs the minimal intrusion of a blood test without need for reliance on the special needs doctrine. The difference is that Jones' rationale would extend to all crimes.

The statute does not deny equal protection; rational basis scrutiny is applied. See: Roe v. Marcotte, 193 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 1999).

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Related legal case

Roe v. Marcotte