Supreme Court May Overturn Maryland DNA Holding

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a Maryland Court of Appeals holding struck down a State law authorizing the collection of DNA samples from individuals arrested for (but not yet convicted of) certain felonies.  Both State and local public safety officials briefly suspended DNA collection efforts of arrestees pending an appeal by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler.  Collections have resumed, at least temporarily, after the Supreme Court stayed the Court of Appeals holding.  The Court of Appeals holding only affects the collection of DNA from arrestees and not those convicted of a crime.

A July 30 Baltimore Sun article reports on statements made by Chief Justice John Roberts that if the Supreme Cort were to take the case, there was a “fair prospect” that the Court would overturn the Maryland holding:

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 ruling striking down the practice as unconstitutional.  …

State officials and local law enforcement authorities lauded the development, saying that DNA collection saves lives and clears the streets of dangerous criminals by matching arrestees with prior crimes. But defense attorneys and others questioned what it could mean for civil rights. …

Other courts have come down in favor of collection. Roberts opinion notes that federal appeals courts in two circuits — the ninth circuit in the West and the third circuit in the Northeast — along with the Virginia Supreme Court have previously upheld such searches.

A July 30 article also provides coverage, noting that most law enforcement and correction agencies resumed the DNA collection of arrestees after the Supreme Court stayed the Maryland ruling:

One day [after the Supreme Court issued the stay], Baltimore County police Chief Jim Johnson announced his agency would resume collection of DNA samples based on Roberts’ initial order.

Other agencies around the state have followed suit.

“It was something  we did in the past according to the guidelines, and we suspended after  the last ruling,” Amy Miguez, an Annapolis Police Department spokeswoman, said. “Now with this ruling were are starting to collect  samples again.”

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