United States Supreme Court Rules On Controversial DNA Testing Case

Criminal DefenseFelony

June 17, 2013

At the beginning of this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a controversial decision in the case of Maryland v. King, determining that a Maryland state law permitting law enforcement officers to take DNA swabs from individuals arrested, but not yet convicted, of certain crimes is constitutional.

The Court voted 5-4 in favor of reversing the Maryland Court of Appeals decision in King v. State (Md. 2012), 42 A.3d 549, 425 Md. 55, which held that the Maryland DNA Collection Act (“Act”) was unconstitutional because arrestees have a “sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches that is not outweighed by the State’s purported interest in assuring proper identification as to the crimes for which they are charged at the time.”

In King, Alonzo Jay King, Jr. was arrested for assault and, as part of the booking process, Maryland police took a sample of his DNA and logged it into Maryland’s DNA database. King’s DNA was matched to another sample that had been taken from the scene of an unsolved rape case. Based upon the DNA evidence, King was charged with the rape. A Maryland trial court denied King’s motion to suppress the DNA evidence and he was convicted.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy opined that the DNA collection process was akin to other suspect identification techniques such as fingerprinting or photo arrays, concluding that DNA sampling is a “legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the fourth amendment.”

Justice Scalia delivered the dissenting opinion, declaring, “Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason. This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane…so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”

Twenty-eight states, including Ohio, and the federal government currently have laws on the books allowing law enforcement to take DNA samples upon arrest. The experienced attorneys of DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder have extensive experience defending against serious criminal offenses involving DNA evidence. If you have been charged with a crime in Ohio, a knowledgeable Criminal Attorney from DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder may be able to help. For legal advice or information, contact, the attorneys at DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.