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Nicholas et al. v. Goord et al. (Challenging aspects of the state’s DNA databank)

This case challenges the constitutionality, under the Fourth Amendment, of New York Executive Law § 995, which permits the extraction, indexing, and searching of blood samples from convicted felons for a DNA database without individualized suspicion. Article 49-B of the New York State Executive Law, enacted in 1994, established a New York State “DNA Identification Index” requiring that individuals convicted of certain offenses, including assault, homicide, and rape, must provide blood samples to allow for the extraction of the DNA information. The list of offenses was expanded in 1999. The purpose of the DNA Database is to maintain DNA profiles of convicted offenders that can be used by law enforcement to identify a perpetrator of a crime when DNA evidence is retrieved from a crime scene. The statute does not require any individualized suspicion that the individual has committed a particular crime, only that he or she has previously been convicted of a designated felony. The plaintiffs are current and former prisoners who are subject to the New York State DNA Database statute, and are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and monetary damages for the unconstitutional seizure and search of their blood. The plaintiffs are appealing the District Court’s dismissal of their complaint.

On Oct. 29, 2004, the NYCLU filed an amicus brief on their behalf. The brief argues that because the extraction, indexing and repeated searching of plaintiffs’ DNA is not based upon individualized suspicion, the New York State DNA Database statute can be found to comport with the Fourth Amendment only if it falls within the “special needs” exception to the requirement of individualized suspicion. The brief further asserts that the “special needs” exception only applies to circumstances where the search or seizure is not undertaken for law enforcement purposes and that where, as here, the DNA samples are being taken to be used in connection with law enforcement investigations, the “special needs” exception to the Fourth Amendment cannot be applied to justify the involuntary seizure of DNA samples. Oral argument was heard on April 13, 2005. In November 2005, the Second Circuit ruled that the New York State DNA Database was constitutional and upheld the District Court’s decision. 

U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Cir. No 04-3887 (amicus) 

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