The US Supreme Court this month announced that it will decide whether it is legally permissible for police to take DNA samples from suspects arrested for violent crimes. The case is an appeal of the Maryland Court of Appeals’ decision in King v. Maryland, which invalidated the state’s DNA collection law. If upheld, the decision would overturn similar laws in 25 states.
In Maryland case, Alonzo King was arrested in 2009 -- and a cheek swab revealed that his DNA matched that from the crime scene of an unsolved 2003 rape. King was convicted of the unsolved crime, but challenges on Fourth Amendment grounds. He claims that the cheek swab was collected from an illegal search.


Maryland's court of appeals was split:

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 question, it seems, is about whether a DNA swab is more invasive than a fingerprint. How? Because it potentially gives more information than a fingerprint? Is it more invasive than strip searching?

This decision could potentially decide whether or not police can collect DNA from suspects -- evidence that could protect an innocent person as easily as convict a guilty one. Does DNA fall to a different (legal) standard than other physical evidence?  

About half of the states collect DNA from suspects when they are charged. Some civil rights activists say that it is different than other physical evidence because it reveals a person's genome.

This case is important not only because DNA helps provide hard evidence in violent crimes, but because it protects innocent people from convictions they don't deserve.

See Maryland v. King. Thanks VClib.

Originally posted to rb137 on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 06:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Inherent Human Rights.

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