Concern Growing Over Law Enforcement Collection of DNA from Juveniles

DNA, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyUnder the current law in Connecticut, anyone who is convicted of a felony is required to provide a sample of his or her DNA to be cataloged in the state’s DNA database. In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court even ruled that prison and law enforcement officials were permitted to use reasonable force to obtain the DNA sample when a convict refuses to cooperate.

While there has been debate over whether the collection of such samples constitutes a violation of privacy, the law and the Supreme Court ruling only apply to individuals who have already been convicted of a serious crime. Meanwhile, reports indicate that law enforcement officials in Connecticut are asking young men and women—including juveniles—to give DNA samples without their parents’ consent or knowledge.

A Cause for Worry

Earlier this month, lawmakers in California passed legislation that makes it illegal for police officers to obtain DNA from a minor without either permission from the minor’s parent or guardian or a court order. The law was widely regarded as a response to allegations of the police in San Diego targeting young African-Americans for DNA collection. Advocates are pushing for similar laws in other states as well.

In 2016, a report by ProPublica found that police were collecting DNA from juveniles and adults in several states, including Connecticut, Florida, and Pennsylvania. These individuals had not been charged with nor suspected of committing a crime. Instead, the DNA collections were being done as part of “stop-and-frisk” interactions.

The primary concern is that minors are often not aware of their rights, and those who are can be easily intimidated by police. “Kids are more susceptible to the coercive nature of police,” said Jamie L. Williams, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation—a civil rights group that expressed support of the new California law. Williams added that young people “probably don’t even think about having their DNA in a database, which has implications for their entire family.”

Talk to Your Children

As a parent, you can help your children understand their rights under the law. While there is nothing stopping a police officer in Connecticut from requesting a DNA sample, your children need to know that they can politely refuse. The same is true when it comes to a warrantless search of their belongings. The police could still attempt to collect DNA or conduct a search, but by giving consent on the spot, your child would unknowingly give up the ability to challenge the legality of the collection or search in court.

Call Us for Help

If your child was stopped by police and forced to give a DNA sample, or he or she was arrested and charged with a crime, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Call 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today. We will review the situation and help ensure that your child’s rights are fully protected.

 

Sources:

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-felons-dna-samples-0628-20160627-story.html

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/crime/article219443025.html

https://www.propublica.org/article/dna-dragnet-in-some-cities-police-go-from-stop-and-frisk-to-stop-and-spit

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