CA11: First offender DNA sample that should have been destroyed under state law but wasn’t could be used in federal prosecution

Under Georgia law, a DNA sample from a first offender should be expunged from the system when he completes his probation or sentence. This one wasn’t. Whatever the statute says, it doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Hinton, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 828 (11th Cir. Jan. 18, 2017):

The district court did not err in denying Hinton’s motion to suppress. As an initial matter, Hinton conceded that the initial collection of his DNA while serving his FOA sentence was permissible. Instead, Hinton contends that the creation of his DNA profile, its uploading and retention in CODIS after his incarceration ended, and the running of a comparison to other profiles after his release from incarceration violated his Fourth Amendment rights. We need not address whether these actions constituted searches. Even assuming they were searches, they do not violate the Fourth Amendment. Further, his argument that they violated Georgia state law is unavailing, because federal law, not state law, governs the admissibility of evidence in his case. Noriega, 676 F.3d at 1263 n.4.

Hinton’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because the potential searches were reasonable when weighing his privacy interests against the government’s interests served by the searches. Hinton’s status as a probationer (or, earlier, his status as an incarcerated offender) informs both sides of the balancing test. See Knights, 534 U.S. at 119. As a probationer at the time the GBI made its initial CODIS match, Hinton had a reduced expectation of privacy. Id. The fact that Hinton was not technically convicted under state law is irrelevant, as the reduced-liberty-for-probationers rationale in Knights did not turn on the “conviction” status of probationers, but the fact that they were being sanctioned for a criminal violation following a plea or finding of guilt. Id. Here, Hinton was sanctioned for his FOA offense after pleading guilty. In contrast, the government had a strong interest in creating a permanent identification record for convicted felons for law enforcement purposes. See Padgett, 401 F.3d at 1280. Moreover, as a probationer, the government holds a higher interest in retaining Hinton’s DNA profile than that of an ordinary citizen in case of the commission of a future offense. See Knights, 534 U.S. at 120-121. Consequently, when balancing these interests, under the totality of the circumstances, uploading, retaining and running a comparison of Hinton’s DNA profile in CODIS was reasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 118-19.

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