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Charles Montaldo

Court to Review DNA Collection Law

By November 13, 2012

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One of the major cases taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court this session involved the collection of DNA samples from suspects who have been arrested for crimes. The case is based on a Maryland law that gives police the right to get DNA from those who have not been convicted, but only arrested for a crime.

The case centers around a man who was convicted of rape after his DNA was taken during an unrelated arrest.

In King vs. Maryland, Alonzo King claimed that collection of his DNA during his arrest for assault was a violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. A split Maryland Court of Appeals agreed with King.

A Higher Level of Privacy

The court ruled that people under arrest have the right to a higher level of privacy than someone who is convicted of a crime. The court also said collecting DNA was not necessary to identify King, like fingerprinting.

The appeals court said collecting DNA was more personally invasive than fingerprinting.

The state appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that there is basically no difference between fingerprinting and collecting DNA. The state argued that the appeals court had taken away a valuable crime-fighting tool from the police.

'A Valuable Investigative Tool'

When the high court agreed to hear the case, comments by Chief Justice John Roberts indicated his support for the Maryland law.

"Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population," Roberts wrote.

"Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm."

The 1994 federal law that established a national DNA database originally was set up to include only convicted felons.

See Also:
Supreme Court to Weigh Criminal DNA Law

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