DNA Collection law

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
DNA Collection law

When someone is arrested should police be able to take a DNA sample to check for matches to other crimes or is it an invastion of privacy?

Maryland's DNA law, which allows police to take samples of suspects' genetic material for possible matches to other crimes, will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court next year, the justices announced Friday.

The law, a signature crime-fighting initiative of Gov. Martin O'Malley, was ruled unconstitutional by Maryland's highest court in April. But in July, U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued an order allowing police to continue collecting DNA samples, signaling that the high court would ultimately weigh in on the issue that has pitted law enforcement interests against privacy concerns.

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear Maryland v. King, a case that stems from a previously unsolved 2003 rape case in Salisbury. When a DNA sample was taken from Alonzo Jay King Jr. after an arrest on unrelated assault charges in 2009, it was used to convict him of the earlier crime. Saying the use of King's DNA violated his rights, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in April and sent the case back to trial court.

"We applaud the decision by the Supreme Court to review Maryland's case regarding DNA collection," O'Malley said in a prepared statement. "Allowing law enforcement to collect DNA samples from offenders charged with serious crimes is absolutely critical to our efforts to continue driving down crime in Maryland and bolsters our efforts to resolve open investigations and bring them to a resolution ? providing victims long-deserved closure."

The Maryland Public Defender's office, which represented King, has argued that taking suspects' DNA before they are even convicted of crimes and using the samples to link them to previous or future crimes violates their right to privacy and constitutes an unlawful search and seizure.

"People who are presumed to be innocent should not be subject to the warrantless seizure of intensely personal genetic information," Stephen B. Mercer, chief of the Public Defender's Forensics Division, said Friday.

Advocates of the DNA law argue that the measure has helped police solve even cold-case crimes and put away violent criminals.

"We are pleased by [Friday's] decision and look forward to the opportunity to defend this important crime-fighting tool before the nation's highest court," Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said in a prepared statement. "With Chief Justice Roberts' stay still in place, Maryland's DNA database remains in operation, helping law enforcement identify and bring to justice violent perpetrators in some of our state's most gruesome unsolved cases."

The law, which went into effect in 2009, expanded the collection of DNA samples from those convicted of crimes to those who have been arrested for violent crime or burglary, even if they were not found guilty. More than half of the states currently collect DNA samples from suspects of violent crime.

Taking DNA is akin to fingerprinting suspects in an attempt to link them to crimes, its supporters have argued.

"There is no reasonable, principled distinction to be made between taking and using fingerprints for identification purposes and taking and using DNA identifiers for identification purposes," Gansler wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court to allow its continued collection.

But opponents contend that taking DNA goes far beyond a fingerprint and into a person's very genetic makeup and that having this very private information stored in a federal or state database leaves open the possibility that it will be used for other purposes.

Rest of article
Supreme Court will hear Md. DNA law - Baltimore Sun

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I honestly don't understand the difference between the sample and fingerprints and the article didn't really clear it up for me. Maybe someone else will have so more info besides "it invades privacy" like the article stated lol.

Right now, don't see the problem. If you aren't a troublemaker, what does it matter what samples they take?

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

Taking fingerprints isn't an invasion of privacy nor would taking a picture. I don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to my fingerprints or image in general.

My DNA on the other hand, I do have an expectation of privacy. It requires an invasive procedure. SCOTUS heard a case on whether blood tests for drunk driving violates the 4th amendment. The haven't issued a final ruling, but the articles I read said they are leaning toward that yes, it invates privacy.

Not only that, it was an unrelated crime. They had no reason to collect his DNA for an assualt charge.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Jess in a lot of cases, like rape in particular, they may have been able to collect DNA but never caught the rapist, not so much with fingerprints.

I agree with this:

The Maryland Public Defender's office, which represented King, has argued that taking suspects' DNA before they are even convicted of crimes and using the samples to link them to previous or future crimes violates their right to privacy and constitutes an unlawful search and seizure.

I don't agree with this, for the bolded reason in particular.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Oh that I get. I'm not getting why this is considered more of an invasion of privacy but a fingerprint is not. Swab inside of the mouth am I right?

Do we take fingerprints before convicted of crimes? If someone is brought into the police station on charges, are they not collected then? Why can we not take a DNA sample?

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Jessica80" wrote:

Oh that I get. I'm not getting why this is considered more of an invasion of privacy but a fingerprint is not. Swab inside of the mouth am I right?

Do we take fingerprints before convicted of crimes? If someone is brought into the police station on charges, are they not collected then? Why can we not take a DNA sample?

You really don't expect privacy on the inside of your mouth?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I guess the privacy of my mouth is just as equal to the privacy of my fingerprint at least to me.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Jessica80" wrote:

I guess the privacy of my mouth is just as equal to the privacy of my fingerprint at least to me.

I am pretty selective with those whom I allow access to the inside of my mouth.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

I don't get it either. I can hardly see calling a swab of the inside of my cheek an "invasive procedure". And as far as the quote that Melissa posted, the same can be said of fingerprints, can't it? I mean, in some crime scenes fingerprints are collected...in some crime scenes DNA is collected...in some crime scenes they are lucky enough to get both. If someone is brought in on charges, and they are going to take their fingerprints, and keep them in a database which they can use to search against other crimes, why not do the same with the DNA? I fail to see the difference.

mom2robbie's picture
Joined: 01/20/07
Posts: 2541

My thought is the day is coming when they will take DNA from every baby at birth and keep it on file. For some reasons that could be good (ie kidnapping) but it could also be bad if in the future you commit a crime... I don't know. As a former victim I say everyone arrested should have DNA taken but I know I am very biased.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I am pretty selective with those whom I allow access to the inside of my mouth.

I guess if I'm being arrested, the last thing I'm worried about is a cotton swab on the inside of my cheek.

And of course, I'm a person that lets everyone inside my mouth...unlike you who is selective. I mean really. Here's a tip. Don't arrested and you won't have to worry about it now will you?

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Jessica80" wrote:

I guess if I'm being arrested, the last thing I'm worried about is a cotton swab on the inside of my cheek.

And of course, I'm a person that lets everyone inside my mouth...unlike you who is selective. I mean really. Here's a tip. Don't arrested and you won't have to worry about it now will you?

Thus far it's been fairly easy for me, but I do have family/friends who have found themselves arrested based solely on the word of others. Charged? Nope. Do you really give up your right to your DNA or blood solely because I lie to the police?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I guess I just don't really care. I'd go and leave a sample now. I abide by the laws so even if falsely accused I have nothing to hide. For all we know, it may work out for many people who are falsely accused if the dna doesn't match.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4103

"Jessica80" wrote:

I guess if I'm being arrested, the last thing I'm worried about is a cotton swab on the inside of my cheek.

And of course, I'm a person that lets everyone inside my mouth...unlike you who is selective. I mean really. Here's a tip. Don't arrested and you won't have to worry about it now will you?

What about the people who get arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? I once very narrowly escaped being caught up in a riot, but several of my husband's co-workers were arrested in the resulting dragnet for nothing more than not getting out of downtown fast enough. They spent a few hours in a police van before being released. The fact is, you shouldn't lose your right to due process when you shouldn't have been arrested in the first place. I think that *should* be one of the things a person should be concerned about when being arrested.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I agree and I said (or thought I said) that it should only be done if you are already being fingerprinted. If I'm in the police van, I wouldn't expect a DNA swab or to be fingerprinted.

If I'm being booked, I expect that I'm fingerprinted then and if the law is in place swabbed for DNA.

I just don't agree that a DNA swab is that much of an invasion into my privacy.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

Update: Supreme Court rules DNA collection is legal from those who are arrested.

Supreme Court rules police can take DNA swabs from those arrested | Fox News