SCOTUS upholds warrantless DNA collection

Posted on June 3rd, 2013 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

Shadow WatchThe US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 3 in Maryland v. King that police may collect DNA samples from individuals arrested and charged with serious crimes. The respondent in the case, Alonzo King, challenged the validity of Maryland's DNA Collection Act after state officials used a DNA sample taken after a 2009 arrest on assault charges to implicate him in a 2003 rape. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the majority found that the warrantless DNA collection does not violate Fourth Amendment rights. Kennedy wrote:

In light of the context of a valid arrest supported by probable cause respondent’s expectations of privacy were not offended by the minor intrusion of a brief swab of his cheeks. By contrast, that same context of arrest gives rise to significant state interests in identifying respondent not only so that the proper name can be attached to his charges but also so that the criminal justice system can make informed decisions concerning pretrial custody. Upon these considerations the Court concludes that DNA identification of arrestees is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure. When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The ruling reverses the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals, which had been temporarily stayed by Chief Justice John Roberts last July.

Kennedy's majority opinion was joined by the chief justice and by Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Scalia criticized the court's comparison of DNA collection to other techniques, such as fingerprinting: "The Court's assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the State's custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous. And the Court's comparison of Maryland's DNA searches to other techniques, such as fingerprinting, can seem apt only to those who know no more than today’s opinion has chosen to tell them about how those DNA searches actually work."

Writing that the court "has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment law," Scalia added: "Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason." (Jurist, WP, June 3)

Photo by Hammer51012  


California DNA collection law struck down

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California's First District Court of Appeals on Dec. 3 struck down a California law which requires the collection of DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a felony. The case had been remanded from the California Supreme Court with orders to affirm the law due to the decision rendered by the US Supreme Court  in Maryland v. King. However, the First District Court again ruled in favor of the defendant, characterizing the collection of DNA as a search that does not pass the reasonableness standard. The court held that the law violates the California Constitution on unreasonable searches and seizures, which is more exacting than the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

This decision conflicts with an earlier ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that the law was in conformity with the federal constitutional

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Dec 18th, 2014 at 4:45 am

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