State Appeal Likely in DNA Collection Case

A May 1 Baltimore Sun article reports that Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler will likely appeal the recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision which held the collection of DNA from arrestees is unconstitutional.  The appeal would go directly to the United States Supreme Court.  As part of the appeal process, the Attorney General has asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision, arguing that DNA collection is similar to taking fingerprints and has helped close previously unsolved cases.  State and local law enforcement and corrections officials have suspended their arrestee DNA collection efforts pending a final decision in the case.

“All this ruling does is allow people to get away with very, very serious crimes,” Gansler said in an interview. “The reasoning by the Court of Appeals doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to most people.”

Opponents of the sampling procedure argue that it tramples on the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. They are also concerned that a DNA sample allows police to access a wealth of personal and private information.

Stephen Mercer, chief attorney for the state office of the public defender’s forensics division, said it is unreasonable for police to seize a person’s genetic information to connect him or her to past or future crimes, and place that person under “lifelong genetic surveillance.”  …

Mercer said that collecting DNA after an arrest is similar to kicking down someone’s door and searching their home or paging through their financial records.  …

But Gansler said the privacy argument is almost “silly,” because DNA samples are used for the “exact same” purpose as fingerprints. …

Gansler said in the interview that the Court of Appeals ruling contradicts most of the decisions in similar cases across the country.

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