Analyzing the DNA samples of juveniles who have not been found guilty of
any crime is an unconstitutional warrantless search, the Arizona
Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
In a unanimous decision, the justices said the state may force
juveniles accused of certain serious offenses to provide a DNA sample.
Justice Andrew Hurwitz, writing for the court, said that is little
different than fingerprints or mug shots.
But Hurwitz said that
legal parallel ceases to exist once the state submits that sample for
processing by the Department of Public Safety crime laboratory.
He said that by doing the lab processing, the state obtains "uniquely identifying information about individual genetics."
it also means, Hurwitz said, is that DNA profile is placed into both
state and national databases so police agencies can use it to see if a
youth is linked to any unsolved crimes. The justices said that, absent a
juvenile actually being found delinquent of a crime, there is no reason
for the government to have that information.
"Having a DNA profile before adjudication may conceivably speed such investigations," he wrote.
one accused of a crime, although having diminished expectations of
privacy in some respects, does not forfeit Fourth Amendment protections
with respect to other offenses not charged absent either probable cause
or reasonable suspicion," Hurwitz continued. "An arrest for vehicular
homicide, for example, cannot alone justify a warrantless search of an
arrestee's financial records to see if he is also an embezzler."
The ruling could have broader implications.
Phillis, director of Maricopa County's Office of Public Advocate, noted
that other Arizona laws require similar testing of DNA samples taken
from adults at the time of arrest. To date, though, Phillis said no
adult who has not yet been convicted has mounted a similar challenge to
this one. This case - and the logic espoused by Hurwitz - could provide
the framework for the court to consider the issue.
Attorney Bill Montgomery, whose office had defended the DNA testing,
said he was pleased the court will allow samples to be taken. But he
disagreed with the conclusion that processing the sample amounted to
invasion of privacy.
"We're not analyzing the DNA to determine
peculiar biological conditions or propensities for disease or anything
else of that sort," Montgomery said.
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