Monday, June 3, 2013

Cheeky Police And DNA

The United States Supreme Court decided a criminal case, Maryland v. King, on June 3, 2013, that hinged on whether or not a DNA sample obtained while processing an arrested crime suspect can pass muster as reasonable under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The Court held that, like fingerprinting and photographing, a DNA sample derived from a routine cheek swab can be a reasonable part of the process of booking a suspected criminal.  The Court described the facts of the case as follows:
After his 2009 arrest on first- and second-degree assault charges, respondent King was processed through a Wicomico County, Maryland, facility, where booking personnel used a cheek swab to take a DNA sample pursuant to the Maryland DNA Collection Act (Act). The swab was matched to an unsolved 2003 rape, and King was charged with that crime. He moved to suppress the DNA match, arguing that the Act violated the Fourth Amendment, but the Circuit Court Judge found the law constitutional. King was convicted of rape. The Maryland Court of Appeals set aside the conviction, finding unconstitutional the portions of the Act authorizing DNA collection from felony arrestees.
Here is a summary of what the Court decided:
When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
A good criminal defense attorney routinely advises her client to keep her mouths shut to avoid inadvertently saying things damaging to her assumed innocence.  Now, the Supreme Court has given criminal defendants another excellent reason not to open their mouths.

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