In response to the News Release issued earlier today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom respond as follows:
DNA evidence is an important tool that allows law enforcement and prosecutors to correctly identify those who engage in criminal acts. In 2005 the Minnesota Legislature recognized the value of DNA evidence and its ability to correctly identify those who have been charged with a criminal offense when it enacted a law which mandated Sheriffs throughout Minnesota to collect DNA samples from individuals arrested and charged with violent crimes prior to a conviction if a judge previously determines that there was sufficient probable cause to believe that the individuals had committed the crime. While this law was previously held unconstitutional by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, a subsequent decision in 2013 by the United States Supreme Court declared a substantially similar law in the state of Maryland to be constitutional. Based upon United States Supreme Court decision Dakota County reinstituted its compliance with Minnesota law in 2015.
The settlement reached in this case should not be considered in anyway as diminishing the importance of using DNA as a method to identify those who have been charged with violent criminal offenses or an acknowledgement that the law is unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. The settlement was reached in recognition of the fact that the statute in question has statewide impact and that any potential costs associated with defending the law should be the responsibility of the state of Minnesota and not solely the responsibility of the citizens of Dakota County. It is for this reason that the Dakota County Sheriff agreed to enter into the settlement and discontinue the taking of DNA under the law. If the Minnesota Legislature wishes to have the constitutionality of this state law defended through civil litigation, it should pass a law providing for reimbursement and the county defending the constitutionality of the statute in civil litigation, or provide the Minnesota Attorney General with the resources needed to defend the validity of the law.
Dakota Sheriff Tim Leslie and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom continue to believe this is an important issue and the application of this law will ensure proper identification of individuals arrested and charged with serious felonies in Minnesota and doing so protect public safety.
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