ROSEMOUNT, Minn.-The Dakota County sheriff's office said it will resume collecting DNA samples from some defendants of certain violent crimes - a decision that follows a recent Minnesota Supreme Court reversal of an earlier court order to stop the practice.
The Supreme Court on Jan. 11 ruled that Dakota County District Court exceeded its lawful authority when it granted a motion and issued an order last year to restrain Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie from collecting DNA samples. The state's highest court also granted Leslie's writ of prohibition, effectively stopping the district court order.
In 2015, Leslie began taking DNA samples under Minnesota law from defendants arrested and charged with certain serious offenses after a court made a probable cause determination. Samples, taken through a cheek swab, are sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis and entry into databases for use in criminal investigations.
The district court's order stemmed from a November 2015 road-rage incident in which 68-year-old John David Emerson of Rosemount was charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. At Emerson's first court appearance in January 2016, his public defender asked the judge to stop the sheriff's office from collecting Emerson's DNA.
Leslie filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, asking the state Court of Appeals to prohibit the district court from enforcing its order. The court of appeals denied the petition, concluding that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction and did not abuse its discretion or commit an error of law in granting Emerson's motion.
In June 2015, Dakota County became the first and only county in the state to resume collecting DNA, which was authorized by law in 2005 but halted a year later after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled it as an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
But it remained on the books, and in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Maryland law that was similar to Minnesota's. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom determined that decision made the Minnesota law valid again.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, Leslie said Dakota County had collected 60 DNA samples before the being told to stop.
"We believed it was the right thing to do then ... and it's still the right thing to do," he said.