HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) - A southeastern Minnesota sheriff’s department has resumed collecting DNA samples from people who have been charged with certain violent crimes but not yet convicted, even though a state appeals court ruled the practice to be unconstitutional.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom says a 2013 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the DNA collection trumps the state appeals court’s decision. The Minnesota Board of Public Defenders is challenging Dakota County and asking judges to block the DNA collection in individual cases by claiming the suspects are being subjected to unreasonable search and seizure.
“We welcome a legal challenge in this process,” Backstrom said. “We have no problem going up and arguing why the statute is constitutional, but we need a forum to do that and we do not have that right now.”
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said the challenge has prevented DNA collection from at least eight of 24 people booked since August who met the criteria to submit a sample, the Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1FUvPme ). Backstrom has asked the appeals court to stop the judges from interceding.
State Public Defender Bill Ward said Backstrom and Leslie have essentially taken the law into their own hands.
“They’re trying to build a database with someone only arrested on suspicion,” Ward said. “They’re just taking (the DNA) because they can.”
Dakota County sends the DNA samples to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which enters the information into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, where it can be compared with DNA obtained from crime scenes and victims nationwide.
Backstrom argues that the DNA collection could also help identify people with connections to past crimes and that could affect how a judge determines bail.
Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com
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