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Court Analyzes DNA Identification of Criminal Defendants in Washington

DNA-217x300Under Washington law, law enforcement agencies have the duty to collect DNA samples from certain criminal defendants. If a criminal defendant refuses to submit to an agency’s request for a DNA sample, they may be compelled by the courts to comply. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a defendant charged with an assault crime argued she should not have to comply with DNA identification. If you are accused of an assault offense, it is important to know and understand your rights, and you should confer with a Tacoma assault defense attorney promptly.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with first-degree assault. She entered a guilty plea and was convicted. Following her conviction, she was directed to provide a biological sample for purposes of DNA identification analysis. She appealed, arguing that the State already had her DNA as she had been convicted of felonies before.

DNA Identification of Criminal Defendants in Washington

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order compelling the defendant to provide a DNA sample. The appellate court adopted the state’s argument that the defendant’s appeal was moot. Specifically, the court noted that the Department of Corrections collected the defendant’s DNA shortly after she was sentenced, therefore removing the appellate court’s ability to provide effective relief for the alleged legal error.

The court explained that it normally could no longer provide effective relief for a claimed legal error if an issue is moot and will typically dismiss an appeal that only raises moot issues.  Courts have the authority to review moot issues of substantial and continuing public interest, though. In determining whether a matter presents issues of substantial and continuing public interest, the  courts will look to the private or public nature of the question at issue, the desirability of an authoritative determination for the future guidance of public efforts, and the likelihood that the issue will arise again in the future.

The  courts will also assess the level of true adverseness and quality of advocacy of the issues and the likelihood that the issue has escaped scrutiny because the facts of the controversy are short-lived. In the subject case, the court found that while the issue was moot, it presented a question of genuine public interest and ruled on the matter. It ultimately determined that the subject law vested law enforcement agencies with the discretion to determine whether to collect duplicate biological samples. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Contact a Trusted Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

People convicted of assault crimes often lose numerous important rights and privileges, and it is crucial for anyone charged with assault to mount a compelling defense. If you are accused of an assault crime, it is wise to contact an attorney. The trusted Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White are proficient at helping criminal defendants protect their rights, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 253-203-1645 to set up a conference.

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