When properly collected and analyzed, DNA evidence is among the most clear-cut and convincing forensics in any criminal proceeding. Countless cases in the last several decades have been greatly impacted by the biological technology, including those of a large number of previously-convicted defendants who were later exonerated by DNA analysis.
Unsurprisingly, the success of such efforts has led all 50 states and the federal government to mandate the collection of DNA samples from at least some categories of convicted offenders, so as to assist in future investigations. Here in Connecticut, however, the state’s authority to use force in collecting DNA was recently brought before the state Supreme Court, promulgated by the appeals of two convicted felons who refused to submit to DNA collection.
The first of the two appellants was convicted of robbery in 1997 and was asked to provide a DNA sample under the law currently in place at the time. When he refused, the state filed a motion to be allowed the use of reasonable force to obtain the convicted felon’s DNA, which was granted, though court documents contained an explanation of what constituted reasonable force. The man appealed on the basis that forcing him to submit to DNA collection represented a second punishment for his crime, but the appellate court ruled that the law requiring DNA samples is regulatory, not punitive. Additionally, the appeals court found that, “prohibiting the state from using reasonable force would permit a felon to avoid his or her obligation to provide a DNA sample,” thus hampering the state’s efforts at future investigations.
The second appellant involved in the issue before the Supreme Court faced a very similar set of circumstances, with the Appellate Court even using the case mentioned earlier as precedent in its ruling upholding the use of reasonable force. In this case, the convicted felon was further convicted of refusing to provide the DNA sample, which is a separate, class D felony under Connecticut law.
Currently, state law requires all convicted felons to provide a DNA sample under the penalty of prosecution but makes no reference regarding whether officials are permitted to use reasonable force. While attorneys for the state, along with the Appellate Court judges in both cases, maintain that forcing DNA collection is not punitive, as a comprehensive DNA bank can be used to exonerate criminal suspects, others, including the attorney handling the case for the appellants disagree. They claim that forcing a convicted felon to provide a DNA sample means that the person is required to forfeit all of the personal information that can be determined from his or her DNA, information that could only be used against that particular individual in the future.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the matter is likely to put into effect a legislative change if it upholds the lower courts’ rulings. With language in the law expressly permitting the use of reasonable force, there would be far few questions regarding boundaries which may not be crossed by state and prison officials.
Protect Your Rights
If you or a loved one is currently facing charges for an offense involving DNA evidence, contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney. Our team understands the importance of following proper collection and analysis procedures, and we are equipped to ensure your rights are fully protected along the way. Call [[phone1]] to schedule your confidential consultation with the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, today.