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Ninth Circuit Holds Prisoners May be Compelled to Provide Blood Samples Under California DNA Act

The Ninth Circuit has held that prison officials may forcibly extract a blood sample from a California prisoner for purposes of compliance with California’s DNA and Forensic Identification and Data Bank Act of 1998 (codified in sections 295-300.3 of the California Penal Code).

George Hamilton, a California state prisoner serving a sentence of 39 years to life, filed suit in federal court alleging that Corcoran prison officials violated his rights under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when, in 2003, they forcibly extracted a blood sample from him for DNA identification.

The district court dismissed the suit at the screening stage (28 U.S.C. § 1915A) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that California’s DNA Act was adopted for the purpose of assisting law enforcement agencies in identifying and prosecuting individuals responsible for committing crimes, as well as for excluding individuals erroneously deemed to be suspects.

Based on overwhelming precedent, including the plurality opinion in United States v. Kincade, 379 F.3d 813 (9th Cir. 2004) (en banc) [PLN, Jan. 2005, p.22], the Court of Appeals had little trouble characterizing as “minimal” the degree of intrusion on individual privacy resulting from the non-consensual collection of blood samples from convicted felons. Concurrently, it found that the governmental interest in prosecuting crimes accurately was sufficiently compelling that it outweighed the minimal privacy intrusion. Hence, Hamilton’s Fourth Amendment challenge failed.

As the use of force was not intended to cause harm, his Eighth Amendment claim also failed. And, because the DNA Act applies to all convicted felons, “there would be little of substance to contest” by way of a Fourteenth Amendment due process challenge, the appellate court concluded. See: Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889 (9th Cir. 2011).

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Related legal case

Hamilton v. Brown