Maryland’s Court of Appeals DNA Collection Ruling = [Face-palm]

Posted on May 15, 2012 by

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On April 24th, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the Maryland DNA Collection Act, which authorizes the collection of DNA from individuals charged with violent crimes or burglaries, violates the Fourth Amendment. The ruling overturned the conviction of Alonzo Jay King, Jr. for a 2003 rape based on a DNA sample taken upon his arrest for unrelated first- and second-degree assault in 2009. King was subsequently convicted of both the 2009 assault and the 2003 rape.

I’m as big of a civil liberties and privacy advocate as the next person, but this ruling perplexes me for a few reasons (yes, I’m the “List” CrimeDime-r):

  1. Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent crimes or burglaries seems pretty reasonable. As we know, evidence collection does not end upon arrest and it benefits the state and defendants for convictions to be based upon “hard” rather than more speculative evidence. Furthermore, it’s not like we’re swabbing folks in line at the bank on pay-day or those with a proclivity for urinating on taxis. The DNA Collection Act limits sampling to those offenders for which law enforcement have sufficient cause to arrest for violent crimes and burglaries.
  2. Convicting King on the basis of his DNA matching evidence from a 2003 rape is consistent with the value Maryland places on affording justice to victims of violent crime evinced by its lack of statute of limitations for felonies. Overturning King’s conviction for rape flies in the face of this purported value.
  3. What about victims? Reporting sexual assault is difficult enough, but to undergo the invasive evidence collection and investigation process then not have your attacker caught is horrible. Imagine spending years reestablishing your life after such a traumatic event, only to have it thrust back into your life not only with memories of the trauma but also a glimmer of hope that you will finally have justice. This ruling takes away that glimmer of hope for victims and adds yet another valid reason for not wanting to report victimization.

The Maryland Attorney General is appealing of this decision, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m going to hail a taxi.

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