Due Process, Prisons/Jails, Indigent Defense - In 2002, officials at the Department of Corrections and the Salt Lake County Metro Jail announced that in an effort to comply with a recent legislative mandate, they would begin collecting DNA samples from all inmates who had pled guilty to or been convicted of a felony charge or a class A burglary offense. Additionally, they hoped to pay for this operation by charging inmates a mandatory $75 processing fee with no exception for those who were unable to pay.
In two separate cases filed with cooperating attorney Brian Barnard in 2002, we argued that because neither the Department of Corrections nor the Salt Lake County Metro Jail had enacted rules or procedures to determine whether inmates were indigent, and therefore unable to pay the fee, both departments violated inmates’ due process rights. During their 2004 session, the Utah State Legislature passed HB 93, "DNA Reimbursement Costs," which stated that corrections agencies could charge an across-the-board $75 processing fee for taking DNA samples even if charging that fee would result in a negative balance in an inmate’s account. The bill further stated that if an agency chose to charge this fee, they have met their obligation to determine an inmate’s ability to pay. The legislation effectively rendered our lawsuits moot, and in April 2004, we filed motions to dismiss.