The Supreme Court has made it easier for law enforcement to take a sample of your DNA, should you be arrested for a “serious” crime. It’s not exactly clear which felonies qualify as “serious” (would larceny count?), but whatever. Here’s a quick overview of the case, Maryland v. King, that spawned this momentous, yet devastating desc ion regarding your 4th Amendment Constitutional rights.
When King was arrested on April 10, 2009, for menacing a group of people with a shotgun and charged in state court with both first- and second-degree assault, he was processed for detention in custody at the Wicomico County Central Booking facility. Booking personnel used a cheek swab to take the DNA sample from him pursuant to provisions of the Maryland DNA Collection Act (or Act).
On July 13, 2009, King’s DNA record was uploaded to the Maryland DNA database, and three weeks later, on August 4, 2009, his DNA profile was matched to the DNA sample collected in the unsolved 2003 rape case. Once the DNA was matched to King, detectives presented the forensic evidence to a grand jury, which indicted him for the rape. Detectives obtained a search warrant and took a second sample of DNA from King, which again matched the evidence from the rape. He moved to suppress the DNA match on the grounds that Maryland’s DNA collection law violated the Fourth Amendment . The Circuit Court Judge upheld the statute as constitutional. King pleaded not guilty to the rape charges but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In a divided opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals struck down the portions of the Act authorizing collection of DNA from felony arrestees as unconstitutional. The majority concluded that a DNA swab was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment because King’s “expectation of privacy is greater than the State’s purported interest in using King’s DNA to identify him.” 425 Md. 550 , 561 , 42 A. 3d 549 , 556 (2012). In reaching that conclusion the Maryland Court relied on the decisions of various other courts that have concluded that DNA identification of arrestees is impermissible. See, e.g., People v. Buza, 129 Cal. Rptr. 3d 753 (App. 2011) (officially depublished); Mario W. v. Kaipio, 228 Ariz. 207 , 265 P. 3d 389 (App. 2011).
Both federal and state courts have reached differing conclusions [*5] as to whether the Fourth Amendmentprohibits the collection and analysis of a DNA sample from persons arrested, but not yet convicted, on felony charges. This Court granted certiorari, 568 U.S. ___ (2012), to address the question. King is the respondent here.
Gloria Browne-Marshall, the brilliant professor from John Jay’s College of Criminal Justice, joins me to explain exactly what this case means. SPOILER ALERT: if you are arrested for a serious crime and the police take your DNA, yet if the charges or dropped or you are found not guilty, your DNA will remain in a state/federal database. FOR.EH.VER.