Do Police Need a Warrant Before Obtaining Your DNA?
We all know of the importance of DNA evidence in criminal cases. It can convict people definitively. It can get people who are wrongly convicted, released from prison. It is often the first thing police at a crime scene collect. But do police need a warrant to collect your DNA? The answer is more complex than you think.
The DNA That’s Left Behind
You shed DNA all the time, every day, multiple times a day. By one estimate, we shed enough skin cells daily to cover a football field. Thousands of saliva droplets, containing our DNA, come out every time we sneeze. We are literally leaving trails of our DNA all the time, wherever we go.
So can the police collect that DNA, for example, to see if we match DNA left at a crime scene? On the one hand, it should be fine. We’re leaving behind—perhaps “abandoning”—our DNA, and police don’t need a warrant to search abandoned property. If you ditched your car on the side of the road, or dropped it off at a junkyard, the cops likely would not need a warrant to search it.
On the other hand, the information in that DNA is ours, and certainly, we don’t shed DNA purposely. Perhaps cops should always need a warrant before searching something that is so intimate and personal to us.
Use of “Discarded” DNA is Increasing
Police are using tis “discarded” DNA more and more recently. There are stories of police DNA testing spoons, napkins, or even a colostomy bag, without getting a warrant first. They then test the found DNA, for crime scene matches.
Combine the “found” or “abandoned” DNA with the numerous databases of DNA available online, which allow police to match found DNA with the names and addresses of people or suspects, and police have a virtual roadmap of DNA evidence, without ever having to get a warrant.
One thing then can lead to another. Based on information gathered from found DNA and cross referenced DNA information, police can locate a potential suspect, and either get a search warrant to search physical property, or, in some cases, police proceed to search property with no warrant at all.
No Supreme Court Cases on Point
There is no Supreme Court case definitively ruling on the issue. There is Supreme Court law, making it clear that search and seizure standards can change, based on how technology, and police practices change.
You can imagine a world where police can get and test every piece of DNA that we leave behind. We have no choice; we automatically shed DNA. Even if police don’t know where our DNA is, they could potentially get it from doorhandles, garbage bags or other sources. Unless a court rules otherwise, this DNA material needs to be challenged in every criminal case where it exists.
Contact the Miami criminal attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today for help if you have been arrested or charged with a crime of any kind.