Wednesday, December 19, 2007

9th Circuit Remands RFRA Objection To Giving DNA Sample

Yesterday in United States v. Zimmerman, (9th Cir., Dec. 18, 2007), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a federal district court wrongly rejected a criminal defendant's objection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to providing a DNA sample. The sample was mandated by the 2004 DNA Act (42 USC Sec. 14135a.) The district court had merely held that defendant's beliefs were not religious because they are not central to the Roman Catholic faith in which he was raised. The 9th Circuit remanded saying that RFRA does not require that a belief be central to a mainstream religion. Instead, it ordered the district court to determine the precise scope of the defendant's beliefs, to determine whether they are sincerely held religious beliefs that are substantially burdened by giving a DNA sample and, if so, whether nevertheless this is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. [Thanks to Sean Sirrine for the lead.]