Florida Court Discusses Whether Retained DNA Evidence Violates Rights

Frequently, when a crime is committed, the police will gather any available DNA that is located at the crime scene and submit it for comparison with the profiles stored on a DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Recently, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery, a Florida court analyzed whether the inclusion of a criminal defendant’s DNA in CODIS violated the defendant’s rights. If you are charged with a sexual battery offense, it is critical to retain an assertive Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to help you seek to safeguard your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the victim was sexually assaulted in her home, after which she attempted to run across the street to her niece’s house. When she was in the street, she was struck by a car and run over several times. The victim’s niece heard a car driving aggressively, which caused her to go outside and investigate. The victim, who was lying on the ground, managed to convey to her niece that she had been sexually assaulted. She was transported to the hospital where she later died.

Allegedly, when the police were investigating the crime, they obtained DNA evidence from a sponge in the victim’s bedroom. They entered the DNA into CODIS, which resulted in a match with the defendant’s DNA. He was subsequently charged with sexual battery and numerous other crimes. At trial, the defendant moved to have the DNA evidence excluded, arguing that his DNA should not have been in CODIS as his prior conviction had been reversed, and his record had been expunged. Thus, he asserted the evidence was the fruit of the poisonous tree and violated his constitutional rights and should be suppressed. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted, after which he appealed.

Inclusion of DNA Evidence in CODIS

On review, the appellate court noted that while the defendant had obtained an order granting his petition to expunge his prior record, which was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the order did not specifically mention the DNA evidence. The court noted that the evidence presented during the hearing demonstrated that unless the FDLE specifically receives an order directing it to remove DNA evidence, it will not do so.

While the appellate court declined to opine on whether the DNA evidence should have been removed absent an explicit directive, the court nonetheless affirmed the trial court ruling. Specifically, the appellate court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence was the fruit of a poisonous tree as it was not obtained via a search or seizure that violated either Florida law or the United States Constitution. Further, the appellate court noted that the defendant had not specified any statute that had allegedly been violated by the retention of the evidence. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Seasoned Sarasota Attorney

If you are a resident of Sarasota and are currently accused of committing a sex crime, it is prudent to speak to an attorney to assess your possible defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Sarasota sex crime defense attorney who is adept at helping criminal defendants seek successful outcomes, and he will fight aggressively on your behalf.  Mr. Hanlon can be reached via the online form or at 941-462-1789 to set up a conference.

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