Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie received a legal challenge filed yesterday by ACLU-MN concerning the collection of DNA from suspects who have been arrested for and charged with certain crimes of violence under Minnesota law. They indicated their intent to vigorously defend this important law in court.
Minnesota Statutes Section 299C.105 subds. 1(a)(1) and (3) was enacted in 2005 by the Minnesota Legislature and requires sheriffs operating jails and community corrections agencies operating juvenile detention facilities to collect biological specimens for purposes of DNA analysis from adults or juveniles who have appeared in court after having had a judicial probable cause determination on a charge of committing any of the following offenses: murder, manslaughter, assault, robbery, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, criminal sexual conduct, incest, burglary or indecent exposure.
In 2006, the Minnesota Court of Appeals in a case known as C.T.L.* ruled this statute unconstitutional by virtue of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After this ruling (which was not reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court) the collection of DNA samples from adults or juveniles charged with these specified crimes ceased throughout Minnesota.
On June 3, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Maryland v. King** declared a statute which is substantially similar to this Minnesota law constitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In a legal memorandum dated June 10, 2015, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Maryland v. King overruled the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ decision in C.T.L. and that this Minnesota statute, which was never repealed by the Legislature, must be complied with by the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office.
Based on this decision, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office reinstituted collection of DNA samples from persons who are arrested, charged, and appear in court for a judicial probable cause determination, for a serious crime of violence. Sheriff Leslie commented: “This is an important law which aids in the identification of individuals arrested for serious felonies who are housed within our jails and who are released back into our communities pending resolution of their criminal charges.”
Backstrom commented: “The United States Supreme Court has ruled that statues similar to Minnesota’s which authorize the collection of DNA from suspects who have been arrested and charged with crimes of violence are constitutional. This decision in my opinion overruled the 2006 Minnesota Court of Appeals decision finding Minnesota’s statute mandating this collection unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Contrary to the contention of ACLU-MN, we also do not believe this important statute is in violation of Minnesota’s constitutional protections.”
This issue had previously found its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court in an earlier challenge by Mr. Emerson of the practices of the Dakota County Sheriff which was initiated in connection with his criminal case. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that there was no ability for Emerson to challenge the Sheriff’s practices through the criminal process, but declined at that time to rule on the ultimate question regarding the constitutionality of Minnesota’s law.