Monday, February 25, 2013

Does DNA collection from arrestees violate the 4th Amendment?

That's the question before the High Court this morning.  Police, of course, say it's a vital tool:

The bolstered federal database has helped solve thousands of crimes by linking DNA evidence at old crime scenes to newly arrested people.
"Behind every number is a human story, a case in which a buccal swab sample collected from a felony arrestee played a crucial role in solving a violent crime," says a brief submitted by all 49 other states backing Maryland's law.
On the other side is Alonzo Jay King, who was arrested on assault charges in 2009. Police collected DNA from a simple cheek swab and matched it to a 2003 rape case, for which King then was convicted. The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed that decision, ruling that the cheek swab constituted a search without either a warrant or suspicion of another crime. Now the state, backed by the federal government, is challenging that ruling.

The NY Times, on the other hand, says no way:

The state did not, however, obtain a warrant to collect his DNA, nor did it establish that it had probable cause to think that his DNA would link him either to the assault or the rape. It did not even meet the lowest threshold for some searches, by establishing that it had a reasonable basis for taking his DNA, or showing that the DNA evidence would disappear unless it was collected.
Maryland argues that collecting and analyzing DNA is like fingerprinting. But the purpose of fingerprinting is to identify someone who has been arrested. Maryland was using DNA for investigative purposes, not identification, and doing so without legal justification.
Maryland also argues that the incursion on Mr. King’s privacy was minor compared with the major benefit in crime-solving. But the number of crimes solved with DNA from people arrested has been low. The substantial harm to innocent people that could result from the misuse of DNA greatly outweighs the benefits. And the safeguard against such harm is the Fourth Amendment, whose fundamental protections the Maryland court upheld. The Supreme Court should do likewise.
Will be interesting to see how this one comes out.  Predictions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Overruled on inevitable discovery grounds...he would have been convicted and no problem with collecting lost conviction DNA...pass on the real issue.