Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia rape case discussing whether the seizure of the defendant’s DNA was in violation of his constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant abandoned any expectation of privacy he had in the items containing his DNA when he placed them in the trash outside his home.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the case arose from an incident in 1995, in which a man in a ski mask broke into an apartment and forced two women inside to perform oral sex. At the time, law enforcement obtained a DNA sample, but had nothing to compare the sample to. Years later, in 2016, a woman called the police explaining that her husband, the defendant, told her he was the “Fairfax County Rapist.” He explained that he would use a black ski mask and hold his victims at gunpoint as he demanded oral sex.
The defendant’s wife called the police, explaining what the defendant told her. Law enforcement then investigating the defendant. To obtain a sample of the defendant’s DNA, police went to his home and obtained items from his trash, including a beer bottle and cigarette butts. The results from the DNA testing indicated that the defendant “could not be eliminated” as a contributor from the sexual assault. After this, the police obtained a warrant to obtain an additional DNA sample from the defendant, which also indicated he could not be eliminated as a contributor.
The defendant was charged with several offenses, and filed a motion to suppress his DNA evidence. The defendant argued that he had an expectation of privacy in his biological information. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the DNA evidence, finding that “there was no reasonable expectation of privacy of the trash that contained the DNA on it.” The defendant appealed.
On appeal, the defendant renewed his argument that the DNA should be suppressed based on the fact that police did not have a warrant for his biological information. The court began its analysis by noting that, to suppress evidence obtained in violation of their rights, a person must have an expectation of privacy in the item. Here, the court identified the item as the trash, rather than the DNA profile. Thus, because the defendant had voluntarily thrown the trash out, he abandoned any expectation of privacy he had in it. Even assuming that the defendant maintained a subjective expectation of privacy in his DNA, the court reasoned that any such expectation of privacy was not objectively reasonable. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling admitting the DNA evidence.
Have You Been Arrested for a Virginia Crime Based on DNA Evidence?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime, contact the Virginia criminal defense attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC. At Robinson Law, our dedicated team of lawyers proudly stands up for the rights of our clients facing all types of allegations, including Virginia sex crimes, weapons offenses, and drug crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call (703) 844-3746 today.