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DNA swab of juvenile is not fundamental error

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found police acted improperly in swabbing a teen’s penis to obtain DNA evidence and that the trial court erred in admitting this test into evidence, but that the error was harmless.

The appellate judges affirmed Duane Lee’s 13 convictions, which included Class B felony rape and six counts of criminal deviate conduct as Class A felonies. Lee and two other men committed a home invasion, robbery and rape of the resident, and Lee fled from police. He was 17 years old.

Police called Lee’s mother to consent to a DNA swab of Lee’s mouth, hands and penis. She signed the juvenile waiver without meaningfully consulting Lee. Lee only challenges on appeal the admittance of the evidence from the penile swab, which he did not object to at trial.

Lee argued that the trial court fundamentally erred in allowing the DNA test into evidence because the state didn’t prove it had the legal authority to swab his penis. Since he didn’t object at trial, the state didn’t have to explain its decision then. The state now argues that the juvenile waiver statute doesn’t apply because exigent circumstances required an attempt to collect the victim’s DNA from Lee before any evidence was destroyed. But the only support for the argument that the state was concerned about Lee destroying evidence was that the police detective interrogating Lee would not let Lee wash his hands after going to the bathroom.

In addition, if the detective actually believed the evidence was about to be destroyed and exigent circumstances existed, there wasn’t any reason to get Lee’s mother’s consent, noted Chief Judge Margret Robb in Duane Lee v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1105-CR-225.

But this error in obtaining and admitting the evidence at trial does not rise to the level of fundamental error. There was other significant evidence to support Lee’s convictions, including the victim’s testimony and Lee’s DNA found on a ski mask and the victim’s mouth.

 

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  1. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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