Maryland Law Enforcement in Limbo as State High Court Rules DNA Sampling of Suspects is Prohibited

Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Some law enforcement departments in Maryland may not obey an appellate court ruling that forbids police from taking DNA samples from criminal suspects without a warrant.
Since 2009, police have routinely collected DNA samples when arresting suspects for violent crimes and burglaries, in an attempt to link them to other unsolved criminal acts.
The taking of mouth swabs was challenged by a convicted criminal, Alonzo Jay King, whose case went to the Maryland Court of Appeals. On a 5-2 vote, the justices decided that police had violated King’s constitutional rights by collecting his DNA without first obtaining a warrant.
Critics of the swabbing contend law enforcement must halt the practice now, based on the King ruling. State authorities and those in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties have said they will stop taking samples, but other departments may continue the collection while the state decides whether to appeal the court decision.
Ivan Bates, a Baltimore-based criminal defense lawyer, said any DNA collected after the ruling will be thrown out in future cases because it was illegally obtained. “You have to have a warrant, point blank, end of discussion,” Bates told the Baltimore Sun.
Supporters of the swabbing contend that it is no different from fingerprinting and falls under the category of “reasonable search and seizure.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:

Md. High Court Strikes Down DNA Collection at Arrest (by Yvonne Wenger, Baltimore Sun) 


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