The Supreme Court is weighing a case that will decide how widely police can use DNA technology to solve crimes without violating an arrested, but not convicted person’s privacy. Arguments were heard Tuesday concerning the policy of police taking DNA samples from people they arrest.
On one hand, proponents argue that taking DNA samples is more or less the fingerprinting of the 21st century, but on the other hand, opponents argue gathering such information without a warrant is a violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment right and should not be allowed.
According to several news outlets, Justice Samuel Alito referred to this case as the “most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.”
The case Maryland v. King was brought before the court after Alonzo Jay King Jr. was arrested in Maryland in 2009 on assault charges and was eventually tried and convicted in a 2003 rape case after his DNA was matched.
In April, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the state law authorizing collection from people arrested, but not convicted violated the person’s Fourth Amendment right.
According to the National Institute of Justice‘s web site, the federal government along with 28 states (as of June 2012) have enacted arrestee DNA collection laws authorizing collection of DNA following an arrest or charging of a person. Louisiana passed the first such law in 1997 and four more states did the same before Congress passed the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 requiring any adult arrested for a federal crime provide a DNA sample. Since that time, 23 additional states followed suit.
Thirteen of those states collect samples from anyone arrested of a felony, while the rest only collect from those arrested for violent crimes such as sexual assault. In seven states, DNA can be collected in certain misdemeanor cases as well.
In Virginia, there must be a judicial determination of probable cause, warrant or formal indictment or arraignment before a sample may be collected a there must be a state-initiated expungement of the sample.
Oftentimes the samples of certain convicted offenders must be uploaded to a national federal database along with a state database.
The case is expected to be decided by June.
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