Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Supreme Court's probable DNA collection clarification

Reuters, last Monday, carried a story about the Supreme Court's probable intention to review whether law enforcement officials could collect DNA samples from people who have been accused or arrested, but not yet convicted, of serious crimes on its October agenda. That outcome could affect half of the states in the nation and the federal government.

The case, Maryland v. King, involves a suspect, Lyle Denniston at ScotusBlog related, "was arrested in 2009 on assault charges, but when his DNA was collected and put into the state's database while he was awaiting trial on those charges, generated a match to a DNA sample that had been collected from a 2003 unsolved rape case. He was charged with that case as well, the DNA match being sole link to that crime. He was convicted on the rape charge, and sentenced to life in prison. He challenged the sampling of his DNA when he was only an arrestee, and, in a divided ruling in April, Maryland's Court of Appeals — that state’s highest court — ruled that it violates the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals who have been arrested — but have not been convicted — to test their DNA and put the results in a file to help in identifying criminal suspects. (Decision)

That conflicted with decisions of other appeals courts Chief Justice John G. Roberts said in a four-page ruling last week, staying Maryland's judgment pending the outcome of its Supreme Court appeal.

"There is a reasonable probability this Court will grant certiorari," Chief Justice Roberts said, "Maryland's decision conflicts with decisions of the U. S. Courts of Appeals for the Third and Ninth Circuits as well as the Virginia Supreme Court, which have upheld statutes similar to Maryland's DNA Collection Act. See United States v. Mitchell, 652 F. 3d 387 (CA3 2011), cert. denied, 566 U. S. ___ (2012); Haskell v. Harris, 669 F. 3d 1049 (CA9 2012), reh’g en banc granted, (July 25, 2012); Anderson v. Commonwealth, 274 Va. 469, 650 S. E. 2d 702 (2007), cert denied, 553 U. S. 1054 (2008); see also Mario W. v. Kaipio, (Ariz. 2012) (holding that seizure of a juvenile's buccal cells does not violate the Fourth Amendment but that extracting a DNA profile before the juvenile is convicted does)." [ Note: The 9th. Circuit's granting en banc rehearing in Haskell v. Harris on July 25th.. Refer 9th. Circuit's website ]

Additional background and information on DNA profiling issues & the Fourth Amendment, though a bit out-dated, can be gotten from the Congressional Research Service's "Compulsory DNA Collection: A Fourth Amendment Analysis" report issued in February 2010.

The National Conference of State Legislatures partnered with the National Institute of Justice to develop a DNA laws database providing general overviews of DNA topics including the establishment of DNA databases & requirements for accreditation; oversight and reporting on forensic practices; DNA requirements for convicted offenders; and requirements for arrestees, including overviews on the laws of those states, including Ohio, which have those types of laws. (Table here)

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