Collecting DNA from Juveniles in 30 U.S. States, 2009-2010 (ICPSR 31281)

Principal Investigator(s): Samuels, Julie, Urban Institute; Dwyer, Allison, Urban Institute; Halberstadt, Robin, Urban Institute; Lachman, Pamela, Urban Institute


This study examined the laws, policies, and practices related to juvenile DNA collection, as well as their implications for the juvenile and criminal justice systems. DNA evidence proved valuable in solving crimes, which motivated a concerted effort to expand the categories of offenders who provided DNA samples for analysis and inclusion in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)-operated national database.

State requirements for DNA collection, which initially focused on adult offenders convicted of sexual or violent offenses, expanded to include other categories of convicted felons, convicted misdemeanants, arrestees, and juveniles. In 30 states, certain categories of juveniles handled in the juvenile justice system must now provide DNA samples. The study was designed to explore the practice and implications of collecting DNA from juveniles and addressed the following questions:

  1. How have state agencies, juvenile justice agencies and state laboratories implemented juvenile DNA collection laws?
  2. What were the number and characteristics of juveniles with profiles included in CODIS?
  3. How have juvenile profiles in CODIS contributed to public safety or other justice outcomes?
  4. What improvements to policies and practices needed to be made?

To examine these questions, researchers at the Urban Institute: (1) systematically reviewed all state DNA statutes; (2) conducted semi-structured interviews with CODIS lab representatives in states that collect DNA from juveniles to understand how the laws were implemented; (3) collected and analyzed descriptive data provided by these labs on the volume and characteristics of juvenile profiles in CODIS; (4) conducted semi-structured interviews with juvenile and criminal justice stakeholders in five case study states; and (5) convened a meeting of federal officials and experts from the forensic and juvenile justice committees to explore the broader impacts of juvenile DNA collection.

Access Notes

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DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Laboratory Interview Data
No downloadable data files available.
DS2:  Stakeholder Interview Data
No downloadable data files available.

Study Description


Samuels, Julie, Allison Dwyer, Robin Halberstadt, and Pamela Lachman. Collecting DNA from Juveniles in 30 U.S. States, 2009-2010. ICPSR31281-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2014-12-19.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2008F_08163)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    crime laboratories, DNA fingerprinting, juvenile justice, juvenile offenders, law enforcement agencies, policy, records management, state regulations

Smallest Geographic Unit:    state

Geographic Coverage:    Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, United States, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

Time Period:   

  • 2007--2010

Date of Collection:   

  • 2009--2010

Unit of Observation:    state

Universe:    Juveniles in the juvenile justice system between 2009 and 2010.

Data Type(s):    aggregate data


Study Purpose:   

The study examined the laws, policies, and practices related to juvenile DNA collection, as well as their implications for the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In order to determine the extent of juvenile DNA collection and inclusion in state and federal databases, a systematic review of all state DNA collection laws was conducted. From this review, 30 states were identified that collect DNA from juveniles handled in the juvenile justice system as of May 2010.

Additional data collection activities included semi-structured interviews with representatives of state CODIS labs in 29 of the 30 states to determine how policies and practices were implemented, and a data request for descriptive statistics on juvenile and adult profiles in CODIS from the labs in an attempt to characterize juvenile profiles in CODIS. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with four to seven criminal and juvenile justice stakeholders in each of five states selected for a case study to gather more in-depth information about implementation practices, cross-agency collaboration, and impacts of juvenile DNA processing.

Study Design:   

The study focused on states that collected DNA from youth handled in state juvenile justice systems, primarily juveniles adjudicated delinquent, along with some juvenile arrestees. As a result, those states that only collected DNA from juveniles tried as adults were excluded. In states collecting from "Youthful Offenders," only those states in which the term applied to juveniles processed in juvenile or family courts were included. The study sought to identify differences between adult and juvenile DNA collection, upload, and use. Juveniles processed in the juvenile justice system are typically afforded additional legal protections and interact with specialized courts, probation, and detention entities. When juveniles are prosecuted in the adult system, they are treated like their adult counterparts, and there is little reason to expect differentiated treatment for purposes of DNA processing. Moreover, criminal justice agencies are often unable to isolate juveniles tried as adults in their data systems. The data request sent to states emphasized the preference for information about juveniles handled in the juvenile system, but states with database systems that could not distinguish juvenile from criminal court jurisdiction were permitted to provide data for youth at or below the state's upper age of juvenile jurisdiction, or below 18.

Laboratory Interviews

The research team identified state CODIS lab supervisory staff for phone interviews in each of the 30 study states and completed semi-structured phone interviews with 29 of them.

Stakeholder Interviews

Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Florida, and Illinois were selected for interviews with a broader group of stakeholders after considering the following criteria: volume of National DNA Index System (NDIS) profiles; scope of collection; geographical distribution; date of relevant law's enactment; and existing relationships with the laboratory. The stakeholder interviews occurred from February 2010 to May 2010.

The research team sought to interview juvenile defenders, prosecutors, probation supervisors, judges, and administrative detention staff in all five states. Additional stakeholders, including policymakers, law enforcement officers, and non-profit and social service representatives, were interviewed based on the suggestion of other interviewees. In cities with centralized juvenile justice systems, researchers interviewed representatives from state agencies whenever possible. In states with decentralized or county-specific juvenile justice systems, researchers spoke with stakeholders from large counties and representatives from at least two counties in each state. In total, 29 stakeholders from the five states were interviewed.

Sample:    The study conducted a systematic review of all state DNA collection laws and identified 30 states that were collecting juvenile DNA. 29 laboratory staff from these states were also interviewed to discuss policies, procedures, and challenges involved in implementing DNA laws.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Weight:    not applicable

Mode of Data Collection:    telephone interview

Description of Variables:   

Laboratory Interviews

The interview protocol addressed the following topics: sample collection processes and responsibilities; sample analysis processes; how DNA profiles were entered into CODIS and stored; how the database identified hits to profiles; expungement policies; and challenges and lessons learned associated with CODIS lab processes.

During the interviews with laboratory staff, aggregate state data about offenders included in CODIS (State DNA Index System (SDIS) and National DNA Index System (NDIS)) was also requested including: total number of juvenile and adult profiles, forensic samples, and investigations aided; distribution of juvenile and adult profiles in SDIS/NDIS by offense type and by gender, race, and ethnicity (snapshot as of 12/31/2008); and annual numbers of profiles added and hits recorded for juveniles and adults by past calendar years.

Stakeholder Interviews

The protocol for all semi-structured stakeholder interviews included core questions and supplemental questions tailored for specific professions. The protocol inquired about stakeholders' experience or familiarity with juvenile DNA collection; perceived impacts of juvenile DNA processing on criminal justice processes and public safety, including whether juvenile DNA deters future juvenile misconduct; expungement policies; and overall challenges and lessons learned from their experiences with juvenile DNA.

Response Rates:    not applicable

Presence of Common Scales:    not applicable

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Performed consistency checks.


Original ICPSR Release:   2014-12-19

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