“Physical evidence is any tangible evidence that can connect an offender to a crime scene. Biological evidence, which contains DNA, is a type of physical evidence,” says the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). All biological evidence, including skin, saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, hair, and even vomit and feces can be tested for DNA in a criminal investigation.
DNA technology has jumped by leaps and bounds in recent years. Thanks to DNA, cold cases are being solved, and even some of the wrongfully convicted are being released from prison. But understandably, DNA testing has a lot of people worried. Will they be convicted of crimes they committed years ago in their youth? Will their DNA be taken after an arrest, only for it to wrongfully convict them of a crime they didn’t commit one day in the future?
If you’re facing criminal charges in Florida, you may have questions about your DNA. When does the state take a criminal defendant’s DNA? Will you be required to provide a sample? Will the DNA laws be changing anytime soon? You have questions and you deserve answers. In this post, we will give a brief description of Florida’s DNA laws, so you know what to expect in regards to DNA testing and criminal cases.
Crime & DNA in Florida
For starters, let’s take a look at which criminal defendants are legally required to provide samples of their DNA. Under Section 943.325 of the Florida Statutes, anyone convicted of the following crimes must provide a sample of their DNA:
- Any felony offense, including felony DUI
- Sex crimes
- Gang-related crimes
- Certain offenses associated with obscene materials
Under Sec. 943.325 of the Florida Statutes, it reads: “It is the policy of this state to assist federal, state, and local criminal justice and law enforcement agencies in the identification and detection of individuals in criminal investigations and the identification and location of missing unidentified persons.”
The statute continues, “... it is in the best interests of citizens of this state to establish a statewide DNA database containing DNA samples submitted by persons convicted of or arrested for felony offenses and convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses.”
What Is DNA?
Deoxyribonucleic acid, otherwise known as DNA, gives law enforcement a suspect’s personal genetic blueprint.
Essentially, the state of Florida, along with every other state, has determined that it’s in the best interests of the public to utilize statewide DNA databases, which contain DNA samples from individuals who have been convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses, and arrested for or convicted of certain felony offenses.
One of the most popular DNA databases utilized by state and federal law enforcement is the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s DNA database that stores DNA records from local, state, and federal forensic DNA labs.
When biological evidence is recovered from a crime scene, it’s entered into CODIS, where it’s compared to profiles already stored in the system. Sometimes, matching profiles can link crime scenes together. When this happens, serial offenders, such as serial rapists and serial murderers, can be identified by detectives. According to the FBI, “Matches made between the Forensic and Offender Indexes provide investigators with the identity of suspected perpetrators.”
Comparing DNA from a Database
DNA technology has changed police investigations and prosecutions. As a powerful law enforcement tool, it can be used to exclude suspects, but at the same time, it can be used to link suspects to a crime that happened years before; DNA collected in Florida can also connect a suspect to a crime that was committed in another state.
These days, DNA is even being used to solve rapes and homicides that occurred before DNA technology evolved to what it is today. In other words, DNA collected today is being used to solve cold cases, specifically those where blood or semen was left behind at the crime scene or on the victim’s body.
For example, suppose “John” is arrested for sexual assault. The state takes a sample of his DNA, and it’s entered into CODIS. A year later, a detective re-opens a cold homicide case. He runs the sample of the unidentified suspect’s DNA in CODIS and there’s a hit; the DNA happens to be John’s. From there, the state will move swiftly to arrest John and put him on trial for murder.
DNA Samples for Certain Arrestees
The million-dollar question is, who must submit their DNA? As of this writing, qualified offenders are generally adults and juveniles who have been convicted of sexually-motivated misdemeanors and misdemeanors involving criminal gangs, or committed or convicted of any felony offense.
Under Sec. 943.325, as of January 1, 2011, and through January 1, 2019, each year more DNA samples will be required for felony offenses, such as drug crimes, assault, sexual battery, and burglary. Under this predetermined schedule, each year more felony offenses will require DNA samples until they all require DNA samples from suspects.
By January 1, 2019, all suspects will be required to provide DNA samples for all felony offenses, including felony DUI. As of January 1, 2017, for example, all felonies defined under Chapter 893 started requiring DNA samples. Chapter 893 deals with various drug-related crimes.
If you are facing criminal charges for a gang-related or sexually-motivated misdemeanor, or a felony offense, it is possible that you will be required to give a sample of your DNA.
What About Juveniles?
The DNA laws regarding sample collection apply to juveniles as well – they are not exempt.
Can DNA Be Tested from a Previous Felony Conviction?
Yes, this is possible. Suppose someone was convicted of a felony in the past, and they insist they are innocent. In this case, the defendant themselves can ask for post-conviction DNA testing. However, the defendant’s application must show the court that there is a reasonable possibility that they could be innocent.
If someone was facing felony charges and they pled no contest or guilty after July 1, 2006, and they were convicted, they can apply for DNA testing under limited circumstances. If you’re interested in getting more information, feel free to contact us if you have questions about how the state preserves biological evidence.
We hope this information has helped you better understand Florida’s DNA laws. To seek legal help, we encourage you to reach out to Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for further assistance.
If you need an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney to defend you, contact our firm at once for the hard-hitting representation you deserve.