The U.S. Supreme Court is busy hearing arguments in cases this week. We will have an editorial tomorrow on the Voting Rights Act. Today, justices hear a case out of Maryland that pits modern DNA technology against privacy and the Fourth Amendment.
Twenty-eight states and the federal government have passed laws that provide for automatic DNA collection when someone is arrested. In Virginia, DNA samples are collected from individuals arrested for violent felonies and burglaries. In some states, cheek swabs are taken from people charged with lesser crimes.
A story today on NPR examined the question of whether it is unconstitutional to collect DNA without a warrant from someone who has been arrested, but not convicted, if the only purpose is to run it through the national DNA database in search of cold hits.
In the particular case before the Court, a Maryland man arrested on assault charges was required to submit DNA, and as a result he was tried and sentenced to life for rape. The conviction was tossed by the Maryland Court of Appeals, but the state is seeking guidance from the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors argue that DNA is “the fingerprint of the 21st century.” Defense attorneys contend that fingerprinting is used to determine the identity of the person in custody, while DNA is gathered in this case to investigate past, unsolved crimes. Further, they say DNA gives law enforcement access to personal and medical information when the government hasn’t provided a good reason that it needs such data.
What do you think? Is your DNA fair game if you are arrested? How do you think the Court will rule?