The DNA decision: Supreme Court Favors DNA Collection of Arrestees

WASHINGTON, In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that authorities can collect DNA from those arrested for serious crimes. This is true even if the person remains a suspect and has not been convicted of the particular offense in question.


Currently, 26 states in the country permit the collection of DNA from arrestees for felonies or other egregious crimes. The standard collection practice involves cheek swabbing in the suspect’s mouth. When this occurs, the DNA
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information is stored into a national database, which is monitored by the federal government.


In the ruling, the court determined that DNA testing of a suspect accused of a serious crime is a reasonable search, which is in line with the standard booking procedure. According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the process is comparable to fingerprinting and other similar practices. In the eyes of the majority, the test is within the ambit of the Fourth Amendment.


However, not all judges were in agreement with the ruling. The dissent warned that the decision might lead to an overall increase of DNA testing, which pushes the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment’s protections. In other words, if one is wrongfully arrested for a crime that he or she did not commit, that person’s DNA will be nonetheless be entered into a national database. However, justices for the majority believe that the practice would help resolve crimes.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor specifically fears that DNA swabs could move into our jobs or schools. At what point is a “reasonable search” unreasonable, thus going too far? However, the other side of the debate equates the practice to modern fingerprinting; it is just a modern version of the archaic practice. Yet, some civil liberties advocates worry about the fact that DNA is subject to contamination or fraud. Would this create a plethora of mistrials or false outcomes?


Ultimately, Justice Samuel Alito describes the case as “the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.” Nevertheless, sources stress that the split 5-4 holding reflects overwhelming disagreement in about
issue — whether the DNA collection practice pursuant to an arrest is considered an intrusion on one’s rights. As technology continues to develop on the criminal investigation side, sources suggest that criminal procedural issues will become more heated and controversial.


In time, more states may adopt laws, which align with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling. If you are concerned about your criminal justice rights, you may benefit from working with a qualified and experienced criminal law attorney. A lawyer can help you exercise your legal rights and protections.



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