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The case of Maryland v. Alonzo Jay King (because all criminals use their middle names) was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States Tuesday morning. The question presented is whether the Fourth Amendment allows the police, without first obtaining a warrant, to obtain DNA from persons arrested for serious crimes.

King had been arrested in April 2009 for first-degree assault, which qualified him under Maryland law to have his DNA taken from him (via cheek swab), which upon testing linked him to an unsolved 2003 rape/robbery case. King moved to suppress the evidence, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed, saying that the DNA collection went beyond law enforcement's legitimate needs as to the crime for which King was arrested.

On Tuesday, Maryland's deputy attorney general barely started her argument, when:

MS. WINFREE: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Since 2009, when Maryland began to collect DNA samples from arrestees charged with violent crimes and burglary, there had been 225 matches, 75 prosecutions and 42 convictions, including that of Respondent King.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, that's really good. I'll bet you if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you'd get more convictions, too.

(Laughter.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: That proves absolutely nothing.

Lyle Denniston has more. A decision will come sometime later this spring.

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