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Supreme Court Oks Dna Swab For Serious Arrests


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http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/03/supreme-court-dna-cheek-swab-rape-unsolved-crimes/2116453/

WASHINGTON -- A narrowly divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can collect DNA from people arrested but not convicted of serious crimes, a tool that more than half the states already use to help crack unsolved crimes.

The case, described by Justice Samuel Alito as "the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades," represented a classic test between modern crime-fighting technology and centuries-old privacy rights.

In the end, the justices had to balance the benefits and the intrusion of a simple cheek swab -- and the considerable benefits won out. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority's 5-4 decision, while Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent.

Twenty-six states already collect DNA from those arrested for felonies or other serious crimes and upload it into a national database run by the federal government. The purpose: to find matches with unsolved crimes.

That's how Alonzo Jay King was connected to a Maryland rape case for which he ultimately was convicted. Arrested in 2009 on an assault charge, King was linked by DNA evidence to the 2003 rape.

The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out his conviction, ruling that police needed a warrant or at least reason to suspect him of another crime before swabbing his cheek. The state, backed by the federal government, brought the case to the Supreme Court.

The justices have been inundated in recent years with difficult Fourth Amendment cases as well as others involving modern technology. Last year, they held that police could not attach a GPS tracking device to a car in order to monitor a suspect's movements. This year, they ruled that using a drug-sniffing dog with reasonable suspicion was OK -- but not at the door of a private home. And they decided that executing a search warrant after a suspect had left his home was out of bounds.

Modern technology presents a problem, however, particularly for justices who try to adhere to the Constitution. The framers didn't have GPS or DNA to contend with in the late 18th century. In February, the court grappled with the patent rights of self-replicating soybeans. This month, they debated about a breast cancer detection technology that comes from human genes.

In this case, Maryland likened DNA to fingerprinting and other tools used to identify suspects. But opponents noted that police take DNA from people upon arrest to help in other investigations -- a process that can lead to false hits and wrongful convictions.

During oral argument in February, Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried that DNA swabs could find their way into the nation's schools and workplaces. Justice Elena Kagan quipped that if it works so well, "why don't we do this for anybody who comes in for a driver's license?"

On the other side were most of the court's more conservative justices, but the debate revealed an unlikely mix. Most convinced about the promise of DNA was Alito, who called it "the fingerprinting of the 21st century." He noted that the criminal justice system has "lots of murders, lots of rapes that can be solved."

The oral argument also revealed an unlikely split among the justices. While liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the practice targets only those arrested for serious crimes -- and for a worthy cause -- Scalia said, "Sometimes the Fourth Amendment gets in the way."

The case received additional attention from the parents and family members of crime victims who have fought for years to expand DNA searches.

Jayann and Dave Sepich have led that effort through the organization DNA Saves. Their daughter Katie was brutally raped and strangled at the age of 22 a decade ago. By the time her killer was identified through DNA evidence, he had committed other crimes.

Last year, Congress passed the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, which President Obama signed in January. It creates a grants program to help states pay for the expanded system.

"It's the right thing to do," Obama said of taking DNA from arrestees in a 2010 appearance on America's Most Wanted. "This is where the national registry becomes so important."

On the other side of the debate are civil liberties advocates who worry that DNA is subject to contamination, misinterpretation, sample switches and fraud.

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Agreed. I'm thinking of possible scenarios where people are basically arrested on some bull shyte charge, have their DNA taken, then released for lack of evidence.

I agree. In fact, I find the distinction between an arrest and a conviction to be lost on most people.

I have no problem with people convicted having samples taken, but merely arrested? No way!

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Not sure why someone not planning to commit a serious crime would care. They can come to my house and take the **** without arresting me. I'm not planning on murdering anyone.

They only have your best interest in mind. There is nothing nefarious that could be done with the information in your DNA.
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They can already collect your DNA if they get a court order, even without a conviction. They can detain you until you give them the sample. Perhaps cops may want to frame someone, but they can do that just as easily with court ordered DNA. Perhaps to fix that, they should give you the right to observe all DNA testing procedures, with your lawyer present...................However, it's not as if there's anything they can't do with DNA collected from a court order, that they can do with DNA not collected that way......DNA is collected upon arrest, when they are already taking you down to the station anyway, so they can't force the inconvenience of going to the station on you before arrest.............The question is, what does this really make worse, other than the ACLU and defense lawyers throwing menstrual fits. I guess they will now have to find more creative ways to keep the DNA a child rapist leaves in his victim out of court.

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Agreed. I'm thinking of possible scenarios where people are basically arrested on some bull shyte charge, have their DNA taken, then released for lack of evidence.

There is nothing about this that the DNA law changes. Without it, the scenario you described is just as likely. They could still arrest you on a ******** charge, and hold you for 24 hours as there is a low standard of evidence required to arrest someone. It should never happen, but it doesn't change with this new law. As you said, they'd be released for lack of evidence, the same thing that would happen without the DNA law. The only people it would change for would be the ones who the DNA gives damning evidence of their guilt. Ultimately, not a big deal.
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Not sure why this is a big deal how can the actual DNA itself be used to harm you if you don't commit a crime? Could be used to release a lot of Innocent men and women. To be honest I'd be ok with every human having their DNA sampled, could be used to prevent disease and treat it before it starts, on the crime side you'd solve crimes a lot quicker and peoples lives would be saved by catching a criminal before they could hurt or kill more people.

Not sure what the big deal is besides the usual tin foil hat people flipping out.

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Not sure why this is a big deal how can the actual DNA itself be used to harm you if you don't commit a crime? Could be used to release a lot of Innocent men and women. To be honest I'd be ok with every human having their DNA sampled, could be used to prevent disease and treat it before it starts, on the crime side you'd solve crimes a lot quicker and peoples lives would be saved by catching a criminal before they could hurt or kill more people.

Not sure what the big deal is besides the usual tin foil hat people flipping out.

That's all it is really, some people just make everything into some conspiracy to turn us into the USSR..........DNA could be used to harm someone in the sense of cops using it to frame them, but as I said before that can be done just as easily with court ordered DNA, which is already legal. When you consider what is already legal in the system, this law doesn't really make anything worse. The DNA procedure is not invasive, it is merely sticking out your tongue, and them dabbing it with a q-tip......................The ACLU are just drama queens about everything, and defense lawyers are probably upset because getting damning DNA thrown out is how they win a large portion of cases. Now, we won't hear any hair splitting over how DNA was collected in court. I guess now if you want to rape little boys you have to be more careful about leaving DNA behind.
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Yeah what could go wrong with giving police unfiltered access to your entire genetic history?

They can do that now if you touch anything, breath or shed hair

It is silly to get fingerprinted and NOT get a quick DNA sample, makes no sense.

I'd honestly want the entire human population to be DNA sampled, the amount of medical break throughs and more precise law enforcement would be well worth it. It is non evasive and you already leave DNA samples every where you go might as well make some use of it.

Edited by MAD597
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On the other side were most of the court's more conservative justices, but the debate revealed an unlikely mix. Most convinced about the promise of DNA was Alito, who called it "the fingerprinting of the 21st century." He noted that the criminal justice system has "lots of murders, lots of rapes that can be solved."

Just thing about all the crime we could solve if they planted a GPS chip under your skin and surveillance cameras in every room of your home!?

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