Privacy Law

3rd Circuit Upholds Law Authorizing DNA Samples from All Federal Arrestees

An en banc federal appeals court has upheld a law authorizing the collection of DNA samples from all federal arrestees.

In an 8-6 decision, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that routinely collecting DNA samples from arrestees for a national database does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Legal Intelligencer covered the decision (PDF).

“DNA profiling is simply a more precise method of ascertaining identity and is thus akin to fingerprinting, which has long been accepted as part of routine booking procedures,” the majority opinion said.

Other federal appeals courts have upheld DNA collection from defendants who are convicted, but only one—the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—has upheld DNA collection from arrestees. The 9th Circuit opinion has been withdrawn, however, in anticipation of an en banc review.

The 3rd Circuit majority acknowledged that DNA samples can reveal private information, such as genetic conditions. DNA profiles of arrestees, however, use only “junk DNA” that provides precise information about identity, but reveals little else, the opinion said.

How Appealing links to additional news coverage by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Christian Science Monitor.

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