2013 06 04 NYT Supreme Court Says Police Can Take D.N.A. Samples – NYTimes.com


Justices Allow Police to Take D.N.A. Samples After Arrests

Published: June 3, 2013 110 Comments

WASHINGTON — Police may take D.N.A. samples from people arrested for serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

“When 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,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s D.N.A. is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench, a rare move signaling deep disagreement.

“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your D.N.A. can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” he said.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent. The case arose from the collection of D.N.A. in 2009 from Alonzo Jay King Jr. after his arrest on assault charges in Wicomico County, Md. His D.N.A. profile, obtained by swabbing his cheek, matched evidence in a 2003 rape case, and he was convicted of that crime. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a state law authorizing D.N.A. collection from people arrested but not yet convicted violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches.

Collecting D.N.A. from people convicted of crimes was not at issue in the case, Maryland v. King, No. 12-207. The question was, rather, whether the Fourth Amendment allowed collecting it from people who have merely been arrested and so are presumed innocent.