Yes! SCOTUS Lets Maryland Return to Arrestee DNA Testing

Posted on August 2, 2012 by


Apparently, the Supreme Court has some sense when it comes to DNA testing. Maybe. We hope. Because, no foolin’, super serial you guys, DNA is the future of criminal justice. We can absolutely transform our entire criminal justice system with some policy changes on DNA.

Chief Justice Roberts issued an opinion on Monday that effectively allows Maryland to go back to collecting DNA from suspects arrested for violent crimes or burglaries.

As TwoBits reported back in May, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned a rape conviction. Alonzo Jay King, Jr. was arrested for first and second-degree assault in 2009. The Maryland statute in place at the time allowed for the collection of his DNA. The DNA, in turn, matched a 2003 sexual assault, and King was subsequently convicted of the sexual assault.

The Maryland Court of Appeals argued that the DNA collection at the time of his arrest — for a violent crime — was a violation of King’s right to privacy under the 4th Amendment Constitutional protection against unreasonable search. They overturned King’s conviction for the sexual assault.

Dude, no.

Fingerprints (which contain touch DNA, I might add) are collected. Photographs, which reveal or suggest all kinds of personal information like age, race, sex, hair color, or illness, are collected.  Notes are taken regarding tattoos, scars, and identifying characteristics. The ONLY personal information revealed by the CODIS DNA system is sex.  The rest of the gene pairs stored (there are only 12 others) do not reveal any information about an individual.

Furthermore, we’re talking about collecting this extremely limited DNA from individuals who have been arrested. Arrest requires probable cause. Police have to be able to articulate good reasons for that arrest. So it’s not just, hey, yo, we think this guy did it. It’s something more, and the rest of the information taken, recorded, and entered into a national database (NCIC) reveals far more than the DNA test.

So, thank you, Chief Justice Roberts.

No, the ruling has not yet been addressed by the Supreme Court. That will take time. But Roberts’ opinion basically said that there’s a reasonable chance that the Supreme Court will overturn the Appeals Court ruling, and Maryland can go back to collecting DNA from offenders arrested for violent crimes and burglaries.