Dakota County Sheriff wants to obtain DNA from people accused of crimes despite MN Court of Appeals decision ruling the practice unconstitutional

Jana Kooren, ACLU of Minnesota, jkooren@aclu-mn.org 651-485-5925 cell or 651-529-1693

St. Paul, Minn. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit on behalf of its client, John Emerson, to prevent his DNA from being collected by the Dakota County Sheriff in violation of Mr. Emerson's constitutional rights. The Sheriff has been trying to collect Mr. Emerson's DNA, despite a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision forbidding warrantless collection of DNA from those who have been accused, but not convicted, of committing crimes.

"If Sheriff Leslie gets his wish, our client's genetic information, along with that of many others, will be dumped into a government database, even if he is never convicted of any crime," stated John Gordon, ACLU of Minnesota Interim Legal Director. "Our DNA is our most personal information. Adding it to law-enforcement databases violates our privacy, encourages intrusive government surveillance, blurs the line between guilt and innocence, and makes us more vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. Extracting DNA from people who are presumed innocent threatens our Constitution and our freedom."

In 2015 the Sheriff announced that he would ignore the 2006 Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, In re Welfare of C.T.L., which invalidated the Minnesota statute (Minn. Stat. § 299C.105) that allowed for pre-conviction DNA testing. The Court of Appeals had invalidated the statute because it violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution. The ACLU is suing to prevent Emerson from being forced to undergo an unreasonable DNA search.

The Sheriff is apparently relying on a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Maryland v. King, to justify collecting DNA from people accused—but not convicted—of crimes. But King did not overrule the Minnesota decision in C.T.L., which is still good law in Minnesota. Even if the Sheriff's practice were permitted by the Fourth Amendment, it still violates Minnesota's own Bill of Rights, which also prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The Dakota County Sheriff does not have the authority to ignore a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision," stated cooperating attorney Peter Farrell of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. "And even if he did, the Minnesota Constitution provides heightened protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Those who have been charged with a crime are presumed innocent, and they should not have to provide a DNA sample—which contains private genetic information—to the government absent a warrant supported by probable cause.

Cooperating attorneys in the case include Peter J. Farrell, Jane E. Maschka, Matthew C. Enriquez, and Joshua T. Peterson of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, as well as John Gordon and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN.

Stay informed

ACLU of Minnesota is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National