August 2, 2012 -
The U.S. Supreme Court indicated that it would probably review whether police in Maryland could collect DNA samples from people who have been accused, but not convicted of serious crimes.
Calling DNA collection from those arrested for certain felonies a “valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts on Monday said there was a “fair prospect” that the nation’s high court would overturn a Maryland court ruling striking down the practice as unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet agreed to take on the issue, but statements made by Roberts in a four-page opinion signaled that it was likely the court would eventually hear the case.
Justice Roberts wrote in the opinion that: “Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population. Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm.”
The Maryland Attorney General plans to file a petition asking for the court’s review by mid-August. Additional legal briefs are yet to be filed and the U.S. Supreme Court will still have to decide whether to hear the case in the coming weeks. If the case does go ahead, oral arguments will be held early next year, though Chief Justice Roberts is optimistic that there is a fair chance that the court would rule in favor of the state when it comes to the search and seizure questions.
In 1994,a federal law was passed which allowed law enforcement agencies to share and compare information from DNA matches taken from convicted criminals. However, U.S. courts have not come to a conclusive decision on when sharing of information and sample gathering can be done.
Should DNA be collected from those accused but not convicted of serious crimes?