Monday, June 10, 2013

United States Supreme Court DNA Decision

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...
English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On June 2, 2013 the Supreme Court held that when the police arrest someone for a serious crime and the arrestee will be detained in custody at the police station, a DNA swab from the arrestee’s cheek is not a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. The purpose of collecting DNA is to add the DNA to a database (CODIS) which connects DNA laboratories at the local, state, and national level. DNA testing makes it possible to determine whether biological tissue matches a suspect with near certainty.

The Court held that the DNA swab was not a violation of the 4th Amendment because it was not intrusive as a cotton Q-tip was used to gather saliva from inside the cheek of the arrestee. Also, the DNA was used for the legitimate Government interest of identifying the arrestee so he could be properly housed in the jail based on his threat level which could be ascertained most accurately from DNA revealing his criminal past. The Court held that this legitimate Government interest outweighed the privacy rights of the individual. The Supreme Court limited collection of DNA samples to those arrested for “serious” offenses.

All 50 states and the federal government take DNA swabs from convicted criminals to check against federal and state databanks. But this decision, and controversy, is the collecting of DNA before someone is convicted of a crime. People are wrongly arrested, and quite often people get arrested by the police, and a case does not get filed by the district attorney’s office. Which is why the case decision was so close 5-4. Justice Scalia wrote in his dissenting decision “make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

In the Court’s holding, “The Act” authorizes law enforcement to collect DNA samples from persons charged with a violent crime, but requires that the sample may not be added to the database before that person is arraigned, and must be destroyed if they are not convicted. Therefore if you are wrongly arrested, or your case gets dismissed your DNA should not be in the database system. The California DNA Collection Act limits collection to those arrested for felonies (but not limited to only serious felonies)which seems to be in keeping with the Supreme Court decision.

In Orange County, many cases are negotiated for a lesser sentence (particularly misdemeanor cases) in exchange for a DNA sample that will be entered into the Orange County database.

If you need help with your case please contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh at (714) 619-9355.
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