Police can take DNA swabs during arrests, divided Supreme Court rules
Mon, 03 Jun 2013 14:27:13 GMT —
A divided Supreme Court says police can legally take DNA without a warrant from those arrested in hopes of using it to solve old cases.
The justices, on a 5-4 vote, say taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested for various crimes, long before their guilt or innocence has been proven, does not violate the Constitution.
At least 28 states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court said it was illegal for that state to take Alonzo King's DNA without approval from a judge. That court said King had "a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches."
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court, called DNA cheek swabs "a legitimate police booking procedure" like fingerprinting or photographing.
The ruling is coming under fire from four dissenting justices and from the American Civil Liberties Union. The four dissenting justices say the court is allowing a major change in police powers.
One of the four, Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote a sharply-worded dissent warning that the DNA of any individual can now be entered into a national database if that person is ever arrested -- "rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason." He says it's a practice that will solve some additional crimes -- but Scalia says the same would be true if DNA were taken from every airplane passenger, or from every child starting public school.
The ACLU says today's ruling creates a "gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment."
But the ruling is being praised by a group fighting rape and sexual abuse. The head of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network says DNA has already played a role in nearly 200,000 investigations. Scott Berkowitz says it will "continue to be a detective's most valuable tool in solving rape cases."