US Supreme court rules: DNA collection of arrestees is legal

Phyllis Smith A. By Phyllis Smith A., 3rd Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Politics

In a 5-4 majority decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, DNA collection after arrest and suspicion of a “serious offense” is legitimate. Police can now collect DNA from suspects after arrest and prior to trial and conviction.

Supreme Court rules 5-4 on DNA sampling

The issue in the case is if DNA samples taken from an individual held without a warrant is an unconstitutional “search” of his person. Five justices, which is a majority have upheld a Maryland state law and concluded the DNA swabbing is constitutional and allowable.

Per a CNN report, the majority wrote: "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."

(Here'a s link to the court's ruling.)

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined Justices Anthony M. Kennedy; Clarence Thomas; Stephen G. Breyer; and Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the majority opinion, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Sonia Sotomayor; and Elena Kagan dissented, along with Justice Antonin Scalia.

Kennedy likened police collecting DNA from suspects to fingerprinting and photographing and said it is “reasonable under the fourth amendment.”

Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench expressing strong disagreement with the decision saying the point of DNA testing is to solve cold cases—not to identify a suspect in police custody. He also argued the Fourth Amendment prohibits searches without reasonable suspicion of a related crime.

Currently, 26 states collect DNA from those arrested for felonies or other serious crimes. The information is uploaded into a national database, with the purpose of finding matches to unsolved crimes.

In a 2010 appearance on America's Most Wanted, Obama said, "It's the right thing to do . . . this is where the national registry becomes so important,” according to USA Today.

In 2009, Alonzo Jay King, a Maryland man
was arrested on an assault charge and DNA evidence linked him to a 2003 rape case in which the victim was murdered and set on fire.

The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out his conviction, ruling the police needed a warrant, or minimally, a reason to suspect him of another crime before swabbing his cheek to collect DNA. The State of Maryland and the federal government took the case to the Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia noted that if King's DNA had been collected after conviction, there would have been no Fourth Amendment violation. The justice added, “So the ironic result of the court’s error is this: The only arrestees to whom the outcome here will ever make a difference are those who have been acquitted of the crimes of arrest.”

Steven R. Shapiro, director of the American Civil Liberties Union
said, "Today's decision creates a gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment. As Justice Scalia's dissent convincingly demonstrates, DNA testing of arrestees has little to do with identification and everything to do with solving unresolved crimes . . .

Civil liberty advocates are concerned that DNA is subject to fraud, sample switches and contamination.


Dna, Dna Swabbing, Fourth Amendment, Maryland, Supreme Court, United States

Meet the author

author avatar Phyllis Smith A.
Online journalist who writes news/op-eds on politics, crime, tragedy, health, entertainment, Christianity and other topics. Also writes Contemporary Praise and Worship songs.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Oscar Crawford Media
4th Jun 2013 (#)

I would agree to the extent it is a one time use only and throw away after specific proceedings.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyllis Smith A.
4th Jun 2013 (#)

Thanks for commenting, Oscar. Unfortunately, that's not the case here.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?