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Arizona Court Sides with State in Controversial Case Involving Years-Old Blood Sample

In an August 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the State of Arizona appealed a trial court’s order suppressing a defendant’s DNA profile. The DNA in question connected the defendant with a 2015 murder, leading the State to charge him with first-degree murder, second-degree burglary, and sexual assault. After the State filed charges, the lower court determined that the DNA was obtained illegally, and it suppressed the DNA evidence. The State then appealed this decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, investigators discovered the body of a dead woman in her apartment several years ago, in 2015. The murder went unsolved, as the investigators were unable to link any suspect to the incident.

Several years later, investigators conducted what is called a “familial DNA test” on the evidence from the 2015 crime scene. They discovered that an Arizona inmate was a close relative of the person whose DNA had been on the woman’s body. Investigating further, they then discovered that the inmate’s brother lived very close to the 2015 murder victim.

Because officers had previously arrested the inmate’s brother for several DUIs, they had already drawn this individual’s blood in the past. They then tested this blood, which they still had on file. The blood matched the unknown DNA from the murder scene several years prior.

After the investigators discovered the match, they obtained a search warrant to search the brother’s home. They eventually connected him to the murder, and he was charged accordingly.

The Decision

After the State charged the defendant, the defendant filed a motion arguing that the DNA evidence should be suppressed. He argued that while he had consented to the police officers’ use of his blood for the 2015 DUI charges, he did not provide consent beyond those incidents. Thus, the fact that the investigators used his 2015 blood sample three years later was an abuse of authority and was objectively unreasonable.

The lower court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. On appeal, however, the higher court had a different understanding of the law. According to the court of appeals, even if the use of the blood draw was beyond the scope of the defendant’s consent, the DNA evidence would have inevitably been obtained from the defendant’s subsequent convictions. The defendant was convicted of several felonies in 2022, and the State would have eventually discovered the link between his DNA and the 2015 crime scene regardless.

Thus, because the State would have inevitably examined the defendant’s DNA, the lower court made a mistake in granting the defendant’s motion to suppress.

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