Supreme Court Allows Warrantless DNA Collections

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Recently, the United States Supreme Court upheld the law enforcement practice of obtaining, without a warrant, a DNA sample from a person arrested for certain crimes. The Court upheld this practice as part of a legitimate police booking procedure. Opponents of the law insist that this practice represents an unreasonable search and is prohibited by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The Supreme Court’s decision came in the case of Maryland v. King. In that case, Mr. King was arrested in 2009 on first and second degree battery charges. As part of that arrest, and pursuant to a Maryland law, a DNA sample was taken by swabbing the inside of Mr. King’s mouth. That DNA sample was matched to an unsolved 2003 rape. Mr. King was ultimately charged with that crime, and the issue before the Court became whether the taking of the DNA sample was legitimate as a booking procedure or an unreasonable search.

What does this mean going forward? The states that do not have a DNA collection law similar to the one in Maryland will move quickly to enact one. At this point, the collection can only occur when a person is held for “serious offense” and the person is taken to the police station for booking and detention. So don’t expect to have to provide a DNA sample when you are arrested for a minor offense or when you are pulled over by law enforcement at a traffic stop. However, in the future, expect advocates for this type of data collection to attempt to expand the reach of this law.

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