Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie will soon have his deputies obtaining DNA from people arrested and charged for certain violent crimes. This DNA collection will take place before they are convicted – a departure from current Minnesota law.
In 2006, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled the practice of gathering DNA, without a warrant, from people charged but not convicted, was illegal.
Two years ago, in 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled the practice was okay – at least in Maryland. In light of that ruling, Dakota County is betting that if their new procedure is challenged in court, they'll have the law on their side.
"Being elected sheriff, and out in the community talking to people about their concerns, and they think we're already doing this," said Sheriff Leslie. "I'm sure we can have the ACLU and defense bar coming forward and say, challenge this, we fully anticipate that."
When reached for comment, the ACLU told Fox 9 they believe the collection of DNA prior to conviction — without a warrant — is unconstitutional, not only under the US Constitution, but also under Minnesota's.
"The U.S. Constitution is really the floor, and states are free to provide greater constitutional protections in their state constitutions," said Teresa Nelson, who is the MN ACLU legal director.
State courts have often interpreted Minnesota's constitutional protections more broadly than the federal protections. For example, while DWI checkpoints are allowed under the U.S. Constitution, they are banned under Minnesota's.
Currently the plan is for the DNA samples to go to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which will enter them into a DNA database. If the person charged is acquitted, the sample will be removed from the database.
"The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has had conversations with the Dakota County Sheriff's Office and the Dakota County Attorney's Office about their decision to collect and submit to the BCA DNA samples from individuals arrested but not yet convicted of certain crimes. These samples are being collected after a probable cause determination has been made by a judge. After consulting with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, the BCA has notified these agencies that we will accept these samples and enter them into the DNA database," said Drew Evans, the assistant superintendent at the BCA, in a statement to Fox 9.
Also in a statement to Fox 9, Ramsey County Sheriff Bostrom and County Attorney Choi said: "The Ramsey County Sheriff and County Attorney have been working together to determine processes that improve our capability to apprehend perpetrators and provide justice for victims of crime. We appreciate the Dakota County Attorney and Sheriff's leadership in this area."
Hennepin County also released a statement to Fox 9: "The Hennepin County Attorney's Office and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office have been looking closely at the issue of arrestee DNA in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. There would be a public announcement before any changes to current practice are implemented in Hennepin County."