Routine DNA Testing After Arrest Upheld by Top U.S. Court
States can routinely collect DNA samples when people are arrested for a serious crime, the U.S. Supreme Court said, limiting privacy rights and giving police a powerful investigative tool for solving old crimes.
The justices, voting 5-4, reinstated Alonzo Jay King Jr.’s conviction for a 2003 Maryland rape, a crime police solved only by matching DNA collected from King when he was arrested on an unrelated assault charge six years later.
The ruling is the court’s first on the privacy of genetic information. The federal government and at least 26 states allow DNA collection at arrest and more may now adopt the practice.
The ruling produced an unusual alignment, with Justice Stephen Breyer joining four Republican-appointed members of the court in the majority. Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
Maryland’s highest court threw out King’s rape conviction last year, saying the state had violated the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches. The court pointed to the “vast genetic treasure map” the state would be acquiring for each person arrested.
At the Supreme Court, King argued that Maryland was seeking to short-circuit the usual requirement that police have reason to suspect a particular person before conducting a search.
The Obama administration backed Maryland in the case, likening DNA collection to fingerprinting -- a practice that is now routine procedure at intake centers, even though the Supreme Court has never ruled on its constitutionality.
The case is Maryland v. King, 12-207.