602-889-6901

Supreme Court approves DNA collection in violent crime cases

People arrested in Arizona on suspicion of violent crimes may be linked to other crimes after a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Maryland v. King, the high court ruled that law enforcement may take DNA samples of suspects taken into custody in violent crime cases.

The ruling is the latest in a string of 21st Century criminal procedure cases that involve technological advances that ostensibly threaten people's civil liberties. In a prior case, the Court ruled that law enforcement could not use a GPS tracking device on a person's vehicle without sufficient probable cause. It also ruled that a search warrant was required (except in exigent circumstances) before taking blood samples in drunk driving cases.

But the King case was different because it involved the very real prospect that suspects arrested in connection with one crime could be quickly linked to other unresolved (and unrelated crimes). Alonzo King was initially arrested in 2009 on an assault charge. After his DNA was taken, he was linked to an unresolved sexual assault that occurred in 2003. He was charged and convicted of the sex crime.

The ruling will not affect Arizona's laws regarding DNA collection. State law already allows police to take samples of people arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, murder and other violent felonies. However, other states (such as California) allow DNA collection in connection with any felony crime. More importantly, if the person is acquitted (or charges are dropped) the DNA sample doesn't automatically disappear. A suspect has to petition to have the sample removed.

Source: USA Today.com, Supreme Court OKs DNA collection for people under arrest, June 4, 2013