Law Enforcement’s Taking of DNA samples upon arrrest

On June 3, 2013, the United States Supreme Court in Maryland v. King has ruled criminal suspects can be subjected to a police DNA test after arrest but before trial and conviction. The Supreme Court used a privacy-versus-public-safety policy rationale that potentially could have wide-reaching implications.

The issue in this ruling was whether taking genetic samples from someone held without a warrant in criminal custody for “a serious offense” is an unconstitutional “search.”

It is routine in Florida that after someone has enerered a plea in a felony case, the person’s DNA is taken by a buccal swab (q-tip inside the mouth) regardless of whether the person is adjudicated guilty.

The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision concluded the taking of a DNA sample by a buccal swab is reasonable to assist law enforcement in detecting crimes in serious cases and upheld a Maryland state law that allowed the taking of the sample from a citizen at the time they were arrested .
The Court held “[W]hen officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” the majority wrote.

The impact of the Supreme Court’s new ruling is yet to be seen. There is a state law that provided for such procedure in Maryland. Thus far, Florida has no such law. However, with this decision finding Maryland’s law constitutional it would not be surprising if many states enact such a law during their next legislative session.

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