Sepideh Esmaili


DNA dragnets—the mass warrantless DNA testing of individuals whom authorities have neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to believe perpetrated a crime, but who merely live or work near a crime scene—have increasingly been used by police departments in a desperate attempt to solve puzzling crimes. The lack of success and the Fourth Amendment constitutional concerns raised by DNA dragnets, however, lead this practice to be suspect. Under the Fourth Amendment, all searches of an individual must be reasonable. The reasonableness of any search typically depends on the government obtaining a warrant prior to the search. While there are well-established exceptions to this rule, DNA dragnets fail to fall within any of these exceptions. In addition, the consent garnered by police from suspects does not render these warrantless and suspicionless searches constitutional, because the consent is not truly voluntary. Law enforcement officials secure consent from DNA dragnetees under coercive conditions where officers threaten individuals with police orders and media scrutiny. Also, DNA dragnets fail to satisfy the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness balancing test, because individuals' interests in keeping their genetic and medical information private far outweighs any governmental concern in solving and preventing crimes. Thus, this Note argues that the use of DNA dragnets in the absence of probable cause and a judicial warrant cannot be upheld as constitutional.

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