DNA and the Fifth Amendment
14 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2011 Last revised: 12 May 2011
Date Written: April 26, 2011
Challenges to the collection and databasing of DNA samples almost always proceed under the Fourth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment is rarely considered a viable legal claim, largely due to the longstanding distinction between testimonial evidence, which receives Fifth Amendment protection, and non-testimonial evidence, which does not. In this short essay, written as a chapter in a book celebrating the life and work of Professor William J. Stuntz, I draw upon United States v. Hubbell as a means of arguing that the Fifth Amendment might in fact cover certain kinds of DNA investigative activity. Specifically, I analogize a requirement to produce documents otherwise unknown to investigators, which the Court found to constitute self-incrimination, to a requirement that defendants provide a DNA sample not to match a specific crime scene, but so that investigators can compile DNA databases to troll for matches. In both cases, the concern is that investigators compel information from a suspect in order to create rather than confirm suspicion, and thus the Fifth Amendment ought to apply.
Keywords: DNA, Fifth Amendment, Testimonial, Communicative, Self-Incrimination, Forensic
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation