Judge: Police may use stun gun to get DNA

June 4, 2009 at 8:09 PM
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LOCKPORT, N.Y., June 4 (UPI) -- Police may zap a suspect with a stun gun to get a DNA sample as long as it's not done cruelly, excessively or with resulting injury, a New York judge ruled.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza ruled a DNA sample obtained Sept. 29 from Ryan Smith of Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- which ties him to a shooting and a gas station robbery -- is legally valid and can be used at his trial.

The ruling is believed to be the nation's first permitting stun-gun use to obtain DNA evidence, lawyers in the case told The Buffalo (N.Y.) News.

Smith was handcuffed and sitting on the floor of Niagara Falls police headquarters when police zapped him with a 50,000-volt electroshock weapon after he insisted he would not give a second DNA sample to police, who botched the first sample a month earlier, the News said.

In her ruling, Sperrazza cited various legal precedents and the state's criminal procedure law permitting the use of reasonable force to carry out a court order.

While no New York case had dealt with using a stun gun to get DNA, a Wyoming court had ruled it was legal to use a stun gun to force a suspect to open his hand for a search, Sperrazza said.

Defense lawyer Patrick Balkin asserted the ruling gave police "discretion to Taser anybody any time they think it's reasonable."

"Her decision says you can enforce a court order by force," he told the News. "If you extrapolate that, we no longer have to have child-support hearings -- you can just Taser the parent."

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