Uncategorized

Supreme Court upholds DNA samplings from individuals under arrest

The Fourth Amendment makes strange bedfellows.

Today’s 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. King—that police can take DNA samples from individuals arrested for serious crimes—found the unlikely combination of Justice Antonin Scalia with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joining on the dissent.

States allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, but lower courts are split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees.

In 2009, after Alonzo Jay King Jr. was arrested on assault charges in Wicomico County, Md., police obtained his D.N.A. profile by swabbing his cheek. That profile matched evidence in a 2003 rape case, and King was later convicted of that crime. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a state law authorizing D.N.A. collection from people arrested but not yet convicted violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches.

Writing for the majority and reversing that court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said:

When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s D.N.A. is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

But Justice Scalia and his colleagues typically on the other side of court rulings disagreed, with Scalia summarizing his opinion from the bench—a rare move signaling sharp disagreement among the members of the Court.

Scalia wrote:

“The court’s assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the state’s custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous.

Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes. Then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the ‘identity’ of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

The Court has yet to issue its decisions on another 25 pending cases, among them the controversial and potentially historical cases involving affirmative action, marriage equality and voting rights.

The next round of rulings are expected on Monday, June 10.

Check Also

State Supreme Court rules retroactive application of teacher tenure repeal is unconstitutional

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Obsolete laws allow big campaign spenders to hide their identities until after Nov. 3 WASHINGTON — A [...]

Just off I-85, on the way into Kings Mountain, there’s a truck stop on Dixon School Road. Driving th [...]

One month after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, having argued that the nation needs [...]

Recent rejection of proposed Wake charter reveals a system that can get messy, contentious and perso [...]

Americans can be a selfish lot. Not everybody, of course. But too many people couldn’t care less abo [...]

“Just make it end!” That’s what many Americans are thinking and saying right now about a lot of thin [...]

With North Carolinians on track to cast eye-popping numbers of votes in advance of Election Day, Nov [...]

In the rush to replace Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, we’ve heard [...]