Home | Browse Topics | Criminal & traffic law | Police powers | DNA samples: When you have to give a sample

Criminal & traffic law

DNA samples: When you have to give a sample


Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995, Part 3, s 39, Schedule

This section of the chapter explains when the police can require you to give them a sample of your DNA, which is done by getting a small blood sample from your finger or by swabbing the inside of your mouth. This section also explains the rules the police have to follow when they get a sample.

The police can require you to give a DNA sample if they’ve arrested you for a criminal offence that carries a possible prison term, or if they intend to charge you with one of those offences. If you’re a suspect, but they don’t have enough evidence to arrest you or charge you, they can ask you to give a sample voluntarily. If you refuse, they can only get a sample from you if they go to a judge and get a court order – called a “compulsion order”.

In general, the police can’t get DNA samples when they’re investigating less serious offences like common assault or wilful damage. In those cases, the police can’t take a DNA sample from you without your consent, and the courts have no power to order you to provide a sample.

What is DNA and how are samples taken?

Your DNA is found in every cell of your body and it contains your individual genetic code. Because everyone’s DNA is slightly different, it can be used to identify you and so it’s useful as evidence in criminal cases.

A DNA sample is taken either by swabbing the inside of your mouth (called a “buccal test”), or by a blood test, usually done by pricking your finger. You can usually choose which way the sample is taken from you, unless a judge orders that it has to be done a particular way.

When can the police make me give them a DNA sample?

Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995, ss 5, 52, Schedule

There are two situations when the police can legally make you give them a DNA sample:

  • You’re under arrest or about to be charged – If the police have arrested you for a an offence punishable by a prison term or they intend to charge you, they can legally require you to give a DNA sample (see below).
  • The police have a court order – If the police suspect you of an imprisonable offence and you’ve refused to give them a DNA sample after they asked you for one, the police can go to the District Court to ask a judge to order you to give a sample (see: “When you’re a suspect: Police need a court order”).

The police also have to follow specific rules and processes if they ask you for DNA sample (see: “Giving a DNA sample voluntarily”).

Note: You should always talk to a lawyer before agreeing to give the police a DNA sample.

Did this answer your question?

Police powers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

YouthLaw Aotearoa

YouthLaw provides free legal advice for young people throughout New Zealand. Their website provides great information for young people about the law.

Website: www.youthlaw.co.nz
Email: nzyouthlaw@gmail.com
Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on your rights when dealing with the police.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/you-and-the-police

Independent Police Conduct Authority

The Independent Police Conduct Authority website has information about how the Authority receives and investigates complaints about the Police.

Website: www.ipca.govt.nz
Email: info@ipca.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 503 728

To make a complaint online: complaints.ipca.govt.nz/195

Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA)

Under the PDLA scheme, you can talk to a lawyer for free if you’ve been arrested. The service is provided for free, 24/7.

Email: legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz
Phone: 04 918 8800

For more information: www.justice.govt.nz/about/lawyers-and-service-providers/legal-aid-lawyers/pdla

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top