Opposing the Expansion of DNA Databases
Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Opposing the Expansion of DNA Databases
San Antonio, Texas
February 21, 2004
WHEREAS DNA databases have the potential to improve the fairness and accuracy of our criminal justice system by excluding innocent suspects, exonerating the wrongly convicted and identifying the true guilty parties;
WHEREAS the Federal government and all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring the collection of DNA samples for criminal investigation purposes, and these laws have increasingly been amended to expand the categories of individuals from whom samples are required;
WHEREAS DNA database laws once limited in scope to serious sex offenders are now being expanded to include all felonies, misdemeanors, arrestees, and juvenile offenders;
WHEREAS DNA samples can reveal extremely sensitive, private information regarding physical and mental traits and the likelihood of the occurrence of genetic conditions and diseases, and, as Justice Brennan wrote in his concurrence in Whalen v. Roe, “The central storage and easy accessibility of computerized data vastly increase the potential for abuse of that information”;
WHEREAS expanding DNA databases to include profiles from arrestees will produce an identification system that reflects and possibly exacerbates racially disparate arrest rates, in part because the inclusion of arrestees provides an incentive for pretext and race-based arrests for the purpose of DNA sampling;
WHEREAS the U.S. National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, in 2002, recommended against including samples from arrestees on the ground that there were already hundreds of thousands of samples waiting to be analyzed and state crime laboratories do not have the capacity to process more samples;
WHEREAS experience with DNA dragnets in which large numbers of individuals in a geographic area are asked to provide samples, sometimes based on racial descriptions, demonstrates that this law enforcement technique subjects innocent persons to intimidation and harassment by law enforcement officials;
WHEREAS confidentiality and the practice of expunging records are essential to the juvenile justice system’s principal goals of treatment and rehabilitation, and policies which undermine the confidentiality of juvenile proceedings distort this rehabilitative model and threaten to stigmatize juvenile offenders;
WHEREAS too many DNA database systems place the burden of expunging records on individuals who have been exonerated of crimes instead of the state, which falsely accused them in the first place;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers opposes the creation of a population-wide DNA database and the use of DNA dragnets;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers opposes the expansion of DNA database laws to require inclusion of DNA profiles from individuals convicted of misdemeanors, juvenile offenders, and arrestees.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers supports legislation that requires state and federal authorities to automatically expunge DNA profiles from individuals whose convictions are overturned on appeal or through postconviction proceedings or other mechanisms.