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Police Can Collect DNA From Arrested Suspects


The U.S. Supreme Court in Maryland v. King, in a 5-4 vote, rules that the police practice of taking a DNA sample from anyone who is arrested for a serious crime does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the majority opinion, says that a DNA swab is similar to taking fingerprints and photographs of a suspect, “a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” Twenty-eight states and the federal government already follow the practice.

The dissenting justices warn that the ruling allows a major change in police powers and that the restriction to only “serious” crimes will eventually be dropped. Justice Antonin Scalia writes: “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane – surely the TSA must know the ‘identity’ of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”