ACLU of New Jersey Challenges State Law Mandating DNA Collection

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
January 21, 2004 12:00 am

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NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that requires all persons convicted of a crime, including juveniles, to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement authorities.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two individuals: “”A.A.,”” who was 14 when he was arrested and sentenced to probation in juvenile court for what amounts to a fourth-degree crime, and Jamaal Allah, 44, who was sentenced in 2001 to five to ten years in prison for two drug-related offenses. “”A.A.”” remains anonymous to protect his privacy as a minor.

“Taking people’s DNA against their will is a serious privacy intrusion,”” said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “”Unlike fingerprints, DNA contains not only information related to one’s identity but also medical, genetic, and other private information.””

The complaint filed today in Mercer County Superior Court charges that the DNA law violates the United States and New Jersey Constitutions’ protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and against the imposition of retroactive punishment. The ACLU is asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to stop the Department of Corrections and the Probation Department from enforcing the law.

“”The first DNA law in New Jersey was limited to sexual offenders and the arguments for its passage were linked to the specific nature of those crimes,”” noted Gitanjali Guttierez, who, along with Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione, represents the plaintiffs as volunteer cooperating attorneys for the ACLU of New Jersey.

“I don’t think anyone then would have believed that the state would ultimately pass a law that would require a teenager or pre-teen to have his DNA extracted, catalogued, and maintained by the government for the rest of his life because of an act of delinquency committed before the law was even in existence,” she added.

The complaint in the lawsuit, A.A, et al. v. Attorney General of New Jersey, et al., is online at /node/35194

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