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Use of Force Authorized to Extract DNA Sample from Prisoner; Conviction for Refusal to Comply Upheld: CT Supreme Court

On July 15, 2016, the Supreme Court of Connecticut upheld the conviction of a prisoner who was charged with refusing to submit a DNA sample. The court also found that force may be used to obtain a DNA sample from a prisoner who refuses to provide one.

The case before the court concerned Connecticut state prisoner Mark Banks, who, following his 1997 convictions for four counts of robbery and kidnapping, was ordered by state prison officials to comply with a 2003 revision to the state's DNA collection statute and provide a DNA sample. Banks refused twice.

In 2010, the state filed a motion in the trial court seeking authorization to use physical force against Banks to collect the DNA sample. Banks argued that the 2003 amendment to the DNA law, which expanded the class of prisoners required to give DNA samples, constituted added punishment to his original sentence in violation of the constitution's ex post facto clause.

The trial court found that the statute was regulatory and non-punitive and had "no effect" Banks' sentence, and granted the state's motion. The court found that the statute necessarily included the option of ensuring compliance through the use of reasonable physical force because "allowing incarcerated felons to simply refuse to provide DNA samples would substantially frustrate" the intent of the statute.

Banks was then charged with another felony for refusing to submit to the taking of a DNA sample, in violation of CT General Statutes 54¬102g (g). Banks moved to dismiss the charge, re-raising the same ex post facto argument. Following a bench trial, the judge overruled Banks' objections, found him guilty, and sentenced him to one extra year of incarceration.

Banks appealed both the conviction and the use of force rulings. The appellate court affirmed, essentially wholly adopting the reasoning of the trial courts. Banks petitioned for review by Connecticut's high court, who accepted the case.

In affirming, the State Supreme Court rejected Banks' contention that the purpose of the DNA statute was punitive in nature. "The overall purpose of the statute is not to punish those convicted of crimes by requiring them to submit a DNA sample, but to use DNA as a means of aiding law enforcement investigations," the court ruled.

The court also rejected Banks' argument that the statute did not allow physical force to be used to force compliance. "For the statute to be effective, it must necessarily allow for the (DOC) to use reasonable force in those instances where a person required to submit to DNA testing refuses to do so." Otherwise, the statute is rendered meaningless, the court said.

Because the DNA statute was non-punitive, it did not run afoul of the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto legislation, and the judgment of the trial court and the appellate court were affirmed, including Banks' conviction for refusing to comply. See State of Connecticut v. Banks, No. 19246 (S. Ct. CT), July 5, 2016.

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Related legal case

State of Connecticut v. Banks