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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

The ACLU of Utah Helps State Legislature Recognize Constitutional Flaws of DNA Bill

01 January 2008 Published in Legislative Work

This legislative session Representative Kerry Gibson sponsored House Bill 156 "DNA Sample - Felony and Certain Misdemeanor Arrests." The bill as introduced would have required law enforcement agencies to take DNA specimens from persons arrested for any felony or class A misdemeanor or for assault, a class B misdemeanor. The ACLU of Utah vigorously opposed the original bill as an unconstitutional attempt to bypass the federal and state 4th Amendment rights of Utahns. Courts across the nation have held that the taking of DNA specimens constitutes a search within the meaning of the 4th Amendment, and thus, can only be done pursuant to a valid search warrant. Courts have also held however, that individuals convicted of a crime have a lesser expectation of privacy, and accordingly, states may take DNA samples in the absence of a warrant. House Bill 156, as originally drafted attempted to equate arrest with guilt in contravention of the very principle upon which our system of justice was founded: innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU of Utah raised these constitutional concerns with members of the House of Representatives. Recognizing the fatal flaws with the bill as introduced, Representative Gibson substituted an amended bill, entitled "DNA Sample - Felony and Certain Misdemeanor Convictions," limiting the reach of the bill to DNA collection only from individuals convicted and not merely arrested of crimes.

Read the fact sheet the ACLU of Utah distributed to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee >>