Collecting DNA Samples in Criminal Cases: What You Need to Know
For some, DNA evidence can be life-saving. Most recently, the news reported that a convicted murderer’s execution was stayed because of DNA evidence. Obviously, it’s important to know New Jersey’s stance on the collection of DNA samples when you are charged with a crime or convicted of one.
If you’re under the impression that everyone charged with a crime is required to allow a DNA swab, you are wrong. Likewise, you should know that New Jersey maintains a DNA database that is considered useful in criminal investigations.
DNA Samples and Criminal Charges
Obtaining DNA samples from criminal suspects is not as routine as one might suspect. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed the issue in 14-2-2814 State v. Gathers, N.J. Super. App. Div. The defendant was facing weapons charges.
The court ordered that the defendant submits to a mouth swab in order to secure samples of his DNA for comparison with a weapon. The judge’s directive was based on a certification submitted by one of Hudson County’s assistant prosecutors. Notwithstanding, the details including in the submission were determined to be based on hearsay. In other words, the assistant prosecutor did have any actual evidence to back up the request. Therefore, there was no probable cause that supported the mouth swab.
Of interest, is the fact that the DNA collection was not asked for until eight months after the defendant’s arrest. Had it been ordered initially, it would not have been unreasonable. In fact, the accused had already provided DNA evidence in connection with a prior case.
Upon review by the Appellate Division, the judges found that the swab was unreasonable for three reasons. One, the request was not based on actual evidence. Two, the timing of the request represented a significant delay. Third, the defendant had already provided a DNA sample in the past.
What does this mean to you if you are facing criminal charges and directed to provide a DNA sample? Certainly, it’s something to discuss with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about your legal obligations.
DNA Samples and Criminal Convictions
DNA samples after a criminal conviction represent a different story. New Jersey law calls for the taking of DNA samples for a number of convictions.
Although the original law did not include disorderly persons offenses, a bill signed last year added indictable disorderly persons offenses. The DNA samples are maintained in a database maintained by New Jersey State Police.
If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone to see how we can assist you.