French National DNA Database Found Constitutional, with Reservations

The French Constitutional Council recently reviewed the constitutionality of several articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure relating to the National DNA Database. This database was initially created in 1998 and was designed to include only the genetic data of convicted sexual offenders. Its content was further extended to cover other serious offenses and to include suspected offenders by various laws.

The Council rejected arguments that the provisions violated principles on the safeguarding of human dignity and the inviolability of the human body, respect for private life, presumption of innocence, non bis in idem (the double jeopardy rule), and the principle that a criminal penalty must be necessary if it is to be imposed. It found that the purpose of the database was to identify an individual and that it is only to be consulted where it is useful to help uncover the truth in a criminal investigation.

The Council found the provisions constitutional, however, with two reservations. First, the list of offenses for which DNA can be collected must be strictly interpreted; second, the time period during which this data is to be kept must be regulated by decree and be proportionate to the nature and the seriousness of the offenses.

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