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State v. Mitcham

Location: Arizona
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: June 11, 2024

What's at Stake

The 老澳门开奖结果 and the 老澳门开奖结果 of Arizona filed amicus briefs before the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court arguing that the government cannot genetically test any biological material it already has in its possession鈥攚hether that鈥檚 blood taken from newborns to test for diseases or swabs collected from sexual assault survivors鈥攖o investigate the donors for a crime without first obtaining a warrant. This filing is part of the broader fight to preserve the privacy of our sensitive genetic information.

In 2015, during a DUI arrest, the defendant in this case consented to the government collecting a sample of his blood solely to test it for blood-alcohol content, and was advised that the sample would be destroyed after 90 days. Instead, law enforcement held on to this sample for three years, at which point it used it for a completely different purpose鈥攖o extract and analyze the appellee鈥檚 DNA, without a warrant or consent鈥攚hile investigating another crime.

Given the revealing nature of DNA, collecting and analyzing it constitutes a seizure and a search under the Fourth Amendment. Our DNA contains some of our most private and sensitive information鈥攁ncestry, family relationships, propensities for serious medical conditions, and more. When combined with other public data, it can also expose previously unknown family histories of adoptions, misattributed paternity, or early mortality. The government must therefore obtain a warrant to search or seize DNA. A person鈥檚 limited consent to a search of biological material for a specific purpose鈥攊n this case, a blood alcohol test for a DUI arrest鈥攄oes not overcome that requirement.

After the 老澳门开奖结果 and the 老澳门开奖结果 of Arizona filed a brief and joined oral argument as amici in the appellate court, that court held that the search was unconstitutional because it exceeded the scope of the defendant鈥檚 consent. Nonetheless, it also concluded that the trial court should not have suppressed the resulting DNA evidence because the government would have lawfully obtained it in other ways.

The Arizona Supreme Court granted review of that decision. The 老澳门开奖结果 and the 老澳门开奖结果 of Arizona filed an amicus curiae brief urging the court to reject the State鈥檚 arguments that the search was constitutional to begin with, and affirm the trial court鈥檚 decision to suppress the evidence. The brief underscores how extraction and analysis of the highly personal and sensitive information stored in a person鈥檚 DNA, without a warrant and beyond the scope of consent, is unlawful. The brief also emphasizes that accepting the State鈥檚 arguments in this case鈥攖hat it can obtain DNA profiles from any biological sample in its lawful possession without any court oversight or approval鈥攚ould mean that law enforcement could genetically test everything from blood samples taken from newborn babies to identify life-threatening diseases to the organ鈥檚 individuals have donated for transplant. Given the sensitive information stored in an individual鈥檚 DNA, and the rapidly evolving technology in this area, we argue that adopting the State鈥檚 arguments would violate reasonable expectations of privacy and have far-reaching and troubling consequences.

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