Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. O'Hagen

January 24, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN O'HAGEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 380 N.J. Super. 133 (2005).

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

(NOTE: This is a companion case to A.A., by his parent and guardian B.A., v. Attorney General of New Jersey, also decided today)

The issue before the Court is whether the New Jersey DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994, N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.17 -- 20.28 (Act), as amended, violates rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraphs 1 and 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. The Act requires all persons convicted of a crime or found not guilty by reason of insanity submit a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample.

On March 5, 2002, John O'Hagen was indicted for third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He entered into a plea agreement and pled guilty on October 15, 2002. At sentencing, in addition to the imposition of a prison term, the trial court required that O'Hagen submit a biological sample for DNA testing and storage pursuant to the Act. O'Hagen objected to the collection and testing of his DNA and appealed, claiming that the Act was unconstitutional under both the Federal and State Constitutions as an unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant, as well as a violation of equal protection.

The Appellate Division upheld the constitutionality of the Act under both the State and Federal Constitutions. The panel found that the State demonstrated special needs beyond the need for normal law enforcement. The court noted that DNA testing was not for the purpose of discovering the commission of a crime, but rather, for the purpose of obtaining identification information that can be used if independent evidence demonstrates that a crime has been committed. The panel further found that the special needs of protecting the public, deterrence, accurately prosecuting crimes, and exonerating the innocent were served by the Act. In balancing the State's interest in obtaining DNA against the defendant's right to privacy, the Appellate Division concluded that any intrusion of privacy was minimal and was outweighed by the State's need to deter and detect recidivist offenders and the public's interest in promptly identifying and accurately prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes. The panel held that the Act was reasonable under both a special needs analysis and the totality of the circumstances test. The panel also rejected O'Hagen's contention that the Act violated principles of equal protection.

The Supreme Court granted certification.

HELD: The New Jersey DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994, N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.17-20.28, as amended, does not violate the rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraphs 1 and 7 of the New Jersey Constitution.

1. In adopting the Act, the Legislature declared that "DNA databanks are an important tool in criminal investigations and in deterring and detecting recidivist acts." Under the Act, DNA samples and test results are confidential and disclosure to any person or agency not entitled to receive it is a disorderly person's offense. In addition to establishing the State DNA database, the Act requires that the DNA information be forwarded to the FBI for inclusion in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the FBI's national DNA identification index system. (Pp. 5-7)

2. A blood test or cheek swab for purposes of obtaining a DNA sample is a search. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. An exception to the warrant requirement arises when special needs beyond normal law enforcement make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable ("special-needs test"). The United States Supreme Court also has applied a balancing test, examining the totality of the circumstances to assess the degree to which the search intrudes on an individual's privacy versus the promotion of legitimate government interests ("balancing test"). Appellate courts that have addressed the constitutionality of a state or federal DNA testing statute have found the statute constitutional. However, there is a split among jurisdictions concerning the appropriate test that should be applied in evaluating the statute's constitutionality. (Pp. 7-9)

3. This Court has applied the special-needs test when considering suspicionless searches under a statute or state program. Although the most recent United States Supreme Court decision in Samson strongly suggests that the balancing test should apply to a Fourth Amendment analysis, this Court believes that the more stringent special-needs test provides an appropriate framework for evaluating O'Hagen's State constitutional claims. Under that test, the Court must first consider whether there is a special governmental need beyond the normal need for law enforcement that justifies testing without individualized suspicion. If so, the Court must then evaluate the privacy interests advanced by O'Hagen and any limitations imposed. Finally, the Court must weigh the competing governmental need against the privacy interests involved to determine whether DNA testing of convicted persons is a limited circumstance warranting a suspicionless search. (Pp. 10-21)

4. Although the enumerated purposes of the Act may involve law enforcement to some degree, the central purposes of DNA testing are not intended to subject the donor to criminal charges. Accordingly, there is a special governmental need beyond the immediate needs of law enforcement. The focus must be on the objective of the search in order to determine whether there is a special need. It would be impractical in compiling a DNA database to require the State to comply with individualized suspicion before obtaining the DNA sample of a convicted person. For that reason, and because the testing is not for the immediate investigation of a specific crime, the State DNA testing program extends beyond ordinary law enforcement and presents a special need that may justify the privacy intrusions absent individualized suspicion. (Pp. 21-26)

5. The Act's requirement for collection and analysis of DNA samples from convicted persons is constitutional under both the Federal and State Constitutions. The intrusions on a person's privacy interest caused by the DNA testing are similar to the intrusions a convicted person will undergo in the taking and maintaining of fingerprints and a photograph. The DNA test results are merely a more accurate way of identifying the individual. The State's interest in maintaining a database that will permit accurate identification of persons at the scene of a crime is far greater than the DNA donor's interest. Moreover, the limitations imposed on the use of the test results reduce the potential intrusion on the convicted person. (Pp. 26-29)

6. The Act is a reasonable legislative determination that does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution. (Pp. 30-32)

Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wallace, Jr.

Argued September 26, 2006

JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN and RIVERA-SOTO join in JUSTICE WALLACE'S opinion.

In this appeal, we must determine the constitutionality of the New Jersey DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994 (Act), N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.17-20.28, as amended. We granted certification to determine whether the Act violates rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraphs 1 and 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. The Act requires all persons convicted of a crime to give a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample. We hold that the Act is constitutional under both Constitutions.

I.

We briefly recite the procedural background. On March 5, 2002, defendant, John O'Hagen, was indicted for third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He entered into a plea agreement with the State and pled guilty on October 15, 2002. At sentencing, in addition to the imposition of a three-year period of incarceration, the trial court required defendant to submit a blood sample or other biological sample for DNA testing and storage pursuant to N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.20. Defendant objected to the collection and testing of his DNA, and appealed. He urged that the Act was unconstitutional under both the United States Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution as an unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant, as well as a violation of equal protection.

In a published opinion, the Appellate Division upheld the constitutionality of the Act under both the Federal and State Constitutions. State v. O'Hagen, 380 N.J. Super. 133 (2005). The panel found that the State demonstrated special needs beyond the need for normal law enforcement. Id. at 147. The panel recognized that the DNA testing was "not for the purpose of uncovering the commission of a crime, but rather, for the purpose of obtaining identification information that can be used in the event independent evidence demonstrates that a crime has been committed." Id. at 145-46. The panel also found the special needs of protecting the public, deterrence, accurately prosecuting crimes, and exonerating the innocent were served by the Act. Id. at 146-47. In balancing the State's interest in obtaining DNA against the defendant's privacy interest, the panel found that any intrusion of privacy was minimal and "outweighed by the State's need to deter and detect recidivist offenders and the public's interest in promptly identifying and accurately prosecuting the actual perpetrators of crimes." Id. at 149. The panel concluded that the Act was "reasonable under both a special needs analysis and the totality of the circumstances test." Ibid. Finally, the panel rejected defendant's contention that the Act violated principles of equal protection. Id. at 151.

We granted certification to address the constitutionality of the Act. 185 N.J. 391 (2005).

II.

Defendant argues that the special needs test is the proper test to determine whether the Act violates his constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. He asserts that the special needs test has not been met because the Act's primary purpose is ordinary law enforcement. Defendant also disputes that DNA is like a fingerprint, contesting that the primary purpose of DNA evidence is to accurately establish the identity of an individual in custody. Further, he urges that even if the courts find a special need, that need does not outweigh his privacy interests. Finally, defendant argues that the Act violates federal and state equal protection.

In contrast, the State contends that the Act is constitutional under either a totality of the circumstances test or a special needs test. However, the State urges that courts should apply the totality of circumstances test and that valid law enforcement purposes clearly outweigh the minimal intrusion of a cotton swab used to retrieve a DNA sample. Additionally, the State argues that the Act is constitutional even under a special needs analysis because each of the purposes of the Act as delineated in N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.21 satisfies a special need beyond normal law enforcement concerns. The State declares that deterring recidivism is a special law enforcement problem equally as important as the independent purpose of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.