Dakota County will start taking DNA samples from violent crime suspects

Author:
Updated:
Original:

The Dakota County Sheriff's Office will soon take a DNA sample from some suspects of violent crimes, even before they've been convicted – a return to a short-lived practice that had previously been ruled unconstitutional.

In a press release, Sheriff Tim Leslie called the collection of DNA "critically important" to helping law enforcement identify suspects.

The samples will be taken from suspects – both adult and juveniles – who have been in court and are charged with certain violent crimes, including:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Assault
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • False imprisonment
  • Criminal sexual conduct
  • Incest
  • Burglary
  • Indecent Exposure

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is ready to take the samples for analysis and comparison, the press release says. Staff at the sheriff's office are currently being trained in proper collection procedures.

"I am pleased that this law can once again be utilized for the important purposes for which it was enacted," he said.

So how did we get from it being ruled unconstitutional to now being OK again?

Constitutional or not?

According to the sheriff's office, Minnesota enacted a statute in 2005 (click here to read it) that allowed law enforcement to take DNA samples from suspects who haven't been committed of a crime. But a year later, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that was a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment – the protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures" of a citizen's "persons, houses, papers, and effects."

However, Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom argues this has essentially been overruled by a determination in a separate case.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court (the highest court authority in the country) found a Maryland law "substantially similar" to Minnesota's statute was indeed constitutional, the news release says – and Backstrom argues that because the 2005 Minnesota statute was never repealed, it's now been proven as legally valid by the Maryland ruling.

The Maryland case involved a man named Alonzo J. King, Jr. who was charged with pointing a gun at several people, Slate explained. He was arrested, and had a DNA swab done – despite having seemingly enough evidence without a DNA sample to link him to that crime.

But that sample later linked him to an unsolved 2003 rape, for which he was subsequently convicted. The man's lawyers argued the swab was an unreasonable search, but the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in favor of the DNA collection 5-4.

DNA collection

After the Maryland ruling, PBS's Nova Next looked at DNA sampling in U.S. law enforcement work. At the time, PBS said 28 states (and the federal government) practiced collecting DNA samples from suspects of serious crimes. The other 22 states only collected that sample from people who were convicted.

About the Maryland ruling, the story said it's "likely to have wide-reaching implications — both for states that already have databases and for those that don’t, yet."

In Minnesota, Dakota County is the first in the state to make such a move since the ruling, the Star Tribune reports, noting other metro counties and the American Civil Liberties Union will be following what happens closely.

Leslie told FOX 9 they "anticipate" legal challenges from groups such as the ACLU.

Under Minnesota's statute, if a suspect is found not guilty, their DNA sample is required to be destroyed from the database. Anyone who had a DNA sample taken, but the charges against them were dismissed, can request it be destroyed and law enforcement must oblige.

Next Up

Jamal Mashburn Jr. / Gopher basketball

Gophers offense disappears in loss to Northwestern

The Gophers are quickly falling out of NCAA tournament contention.

Malik Beasley

Timberwolves Malik Beasley suspended 12 games for offseason incident

Beasley was sentenced to 120 days in jail earlier this month.

Russell Wilson

Vikings fans should REALLY hope Russell Wilson doesn't go to the Bears

Wilson has a 6-0 record against Minnesota and could be on his way to the NFC North.

Ostroushko

Celebrated Minnesota musician Peter Ostroushko dies

Ostroushko, who learned his craft in the Ukrainian community of Northeast Minneapolis, had a versatile career including performances with popular artists and orchestras

Costco_Wholesale_Store_(34635636926)

Costco will bump its minimum wage to $16 next week

The company, which has 12 stores in Minnesota, is pushing ahead of retailers Target and Amazon with its new minimum wage

Seth Green/Gopher Football

Gophers wildcat QB Seth Green announces decision to transfer

Green will have immediate eligibility as a graduate transfer.

Minneapolis skyline

Minneapolis pays 3 times more than it receives in state funds, new report says

This report comes as state lawmakers are debating proposals opponents say would "bail out" the state's largest city.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Is Kirk Cousins' contract extension helping or hurting the Vikings?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

University of minnesota sign

U of M gets $5M donation for new center to address racial inequality in healthcare

Using a donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the School of Public Health will work to address racial disparities in healthcare.

Related

Why the Dakota County Sheriff's Office will stop collecting DNA samples from suspects

They still think it's an important crime-fighting tool, but will halt the practice.

Violent crime drops in Hennepin County

New preliminary estimates from the Sheriff's Office show violent crime is down 38 percent over the past five years. The Star Tribune reports last year was the fifth consecutive year it dropped across the county.