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Newark, N.J.�When New Jersey’s law requiring anyone convicted of a crime to hand over a DNA sample was enacted on Sept. 21, it reminded Ed Forchion�a marijuana-legalization activist known as NJWeedman�of Minority Report. In Minority Report, a short story by Philip K. Dick that became a movie, the murder rate is reduced to zero as the police arrest people for wrongs they are about to commit. The new law is an ominous step toward that Big Brother-type scenario, Forchion asserts. As DNA will be used to solve crimes that have not yet been committed, he said, it requires searches of people who are not yet suspects. On Oct. 23, Forchion filed a pro se habeas corpus petition in U.S. district court in Camden, N.J. He is challenging the constitutionality of the law on the basis that it requires an invasive search without probable cause and wrongly applies retroactively to those who made plea deals in which DNA was never discussed. Forchion has been arrested more than 30 times. He’s currently in the Intensive Supervision Program after being released from a 16-month jail spell on a marijuana-dealing conviction. Blood letter Not surprisingly, eight days after Governor James McGreevey signed the expansions to the DNA Database and Databank Act, N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.17 (amended at PL 2003, c. 183), Forchion received a letter from his supervision judge, Superior Court Judge Shirley Tolentino. She demanded that he “submit to having a blood sample drawn, or other biological sample collected, for purposes of DNA testing.” In the past few weeks, thousands of similar letters have gone out as county sheriffs’ departments and Intensive Supervision Program officials gear up to take cheek swabs from people who thought they’d paid their debt to society. As a result, criminal defense attorneys have been fielding telephone calls from former clients worried about the new requirement. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has received about 30 such calls so far. The original law and amendments in 2000 had focused only on serious crimes, such as sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, endangering and luring a child and certain aggravated assaults. Forchion’s challenge has received some attention. The ACLU last week filed an amicus brief in the case, Forchione v. Bartlett, Civ. A. No. 02-4942. County prosecutors in New Jersey take a dim view of Forchion’s motion. They argue that Forchion should have thought about his privacy rights in 1997, before he was caught delivering a 100-pound bale of marijuana hidden in a cooler to his brother. “Convicted offenders forfeit certain rights even under the Constitution,” said Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi. “This may be one of them.”

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