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Do you have to provide a DNA sample when police ask for one?

In some cities across the country, police officers are asking people for DNA samples, even if they haven't been accused of or arrested for a crime. While citizens aren't required to give these samples (via a swabbing of the inside of their cheek), many don't realize that.

According to an investigative report by ProPublica, this has become an increasingly common practice in Connecticut and several other states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, during random encounters with police or something as simple as a traffic stop.

Even though no one is required to provide DNA samples in these situations, citizens often don't differentiate between a request and a command by law enforcement officers or fear the consequences of refusing.

There are rules that govern which samples can be provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its national database. However, some cities have compiled databases of DNA samples that they use when investigating crimes.

There are legal concerns about invasion of privacy and the misuse of DNA samples. These are likely to grow if the trend continues among law enforcement agencies. According to the Council for Responsible Genetics, you are not required to provide a DNA sample unless you are arrested by federal agents.

Further, if law enforcement officers ask for a voluntary sample, they are to make it clear that you're not required to provide one. Otherwise, they could be violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

If a local law enforcement officer requests a DNA sample, you can and should refuse. If you've given one because you felt coerced into doing so or were led to believe that it was required, you should determine what your legal options are, regardless of whether you have been arrested or charged with a crime. A Connecticut criminal defense attorney can provide guidance.

Source: Daily Kos, "More and more cops are asking citizens for DNA samples," Thandisizwe Chimurenga, Sep. 14, 2016

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