DNA Database Trawls and the Definition of a Search in Boroian v. Mueller
Virginia Law Review, Vol. 97, pp. 41-49, 2011
10 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2011 Last revised: 23 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 4, 2011
As a general matter, once the government acquires information from a permissible search or seizure, it can use this information in later criminal investigations. Courts have applied this simple rule to uphold the indefinite reuse of DNA samples acquired from convicted offenders. This essay describes the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ reliance on the rule in rejecting a convicted offender’s claim that his DNA sample and profile had to be removed from the federal DNA databank after he completed his sentence. Acknowledging that the rule permitting reuse should not be applied mechanically, I argue that the rule's application to DNA databases is correct because merely retrawling a database for matches to a crime-scene sample does not implicate any cognizable Fourth Amendment interest.
Keywords: search and seizure, fourth amendment, DNA database, reuse, trawling
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