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B. Search issues - Criminal Adjudication: The Challenges of Forensic Science Evidence in the Early 21

B. Search issues


DNA database issues may most often present themselves in pretrial motions alleging that they are the result of unlawful searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Generally, such motions have failed. The federal courts have consistently ruled that the federal statute and various state statutes mandating the taking of DNA samples for law enforcement databases are not constitutionally infirm.107 The physical gathering of a DNA specimen from a suspect for DNA testing is, of course, governed by the same Fourth Amendment constraints that apply to any seizure, and the DNA purpose of that seizure does not change that analysis.

C. Statutes of Limitations and "John Doe" Warrants


One of the side effects of the use of newly developing DNA techniques and ever- expanding DNA databases in "cold" cases is an often lengthy delay in charging a defendant whose identity is finally revealed by that DNA comparison. Applicable statutes of limitation may well have expired in the interim. In response, federal and state legislatures have begun to revise the statutory limitation periods.108

The Justice for All Act of 2004109 that expanded the CODIS database also extended the federal statute of limitations in cases which DNA testing implicates a perpetrator until the time that the actual identity of the perpetrator is discovered. Several states have similarly extended some periods of limitations, including "Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York."110 Many states have created special statutory limitation extensions applicable to sexual assault cases.111 A myriad of additional extensions and modifications of state limitations periods are currently under consideration.112 The proposals range, for example, from eliminating the limitations period entirely for certain offenses113 to extending the statute when DNA evidence is recovered at a crime scene but the evidence does not currently match anyone in the DNA database.114

Additionally, prosecutors in several states have tried to toll the statute of limitations by filing a criminal complaint and warrant naming "John Doe" as the defendant and identifying him by the DNA profile obtained from a crime scene specimen. Prosecuting attorney organizations and the Justice Department are encouraging the filing of such "John Doe" warrants.115 These warrants were first originated in Wisconsin in 1999 but are now being used by prosecutors in many other jurisdictions.116 Federal and some state statutes have specifically authorized the use of such warrants.117 The legal issue is whether such warrants or indictments sufficiently identify the defendant so as to toll the statute of limitations. The Fourth Amendment requires that warrants particularly describe the person to be seized.118 The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require that an arrest warrant "contain the defendant’s name or, if it is unknown, any name or description by which the defendant can be identified with reasonable certainty."119 Most states have similar requirements.120

"John Doe" warrants—without further identifying information—are clearly constitutionally insufficient,121 even when they contain some physical description such as race, height, or weight.122 Prosecutors contend, however, that including the DNA profile not only meets but exceeds the reasonable certainty requirement because the profile can only identify one person. Defense lawyers disagree on the basis that "DNA samples will degrade over time, even under optimal conditions and errors in the collection, handling and storage of DNA samples can result in errors in identification."123 Defense lawyers assert that nameless DNA warrants do not meet the requirement of reasonable certainty and that allowing such John Doe warrants vitiates their rights under the applicable statute of limitations.
2010-07-19 18:44 Читать похожую статью
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