Supreme Court Rules that It’s Okay for Police to Take DNA Samples from People Arrested for Serious Criminal Offenses

Last month, the United States Supreme Court endorsed the controversial police practice of taking DNA cheek swabs from persons who have been arrested for serious crimes likemurder, rape, assault, and burglary.

The Court’s ruling supported a Maryland law that had come under scrutiny. The law in question allows DNA swabbing of people arrested for serious crimes. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court’s majority, downplayed the impact of the Maryland law when he declared that taking a DNA swab “is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

The four (4) dissenting justices strongly disagreed, arguing that the Court’s majority was endorsing a significant change in police powers. Justice Antonin Scalia even suggested that the law could have a snowball effect that leads to DNA swabbing of people arrested for any crime, not just people arrested for serious crimes. In the dissenting justices’ view, there is now nothing to stop states from expanding DNA collection to include persons arrested for lesser offenses like shoplifting.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also did not mince words in its objection to the ruling, declaring that the Court has created “a gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment.”

Even before the ruling, all 50 states and the federal government were allowed to take cheek swabs from convicted criminals. However, the fight in this case revolved around hether this kind of DNA collection could occur prior to conviction and without a judge first issuing a warrant. Today, 28 states and the federal government take DNA swabs in this manner.

To learn more, see the article entitled “Supreme Court: DNA Samples Can Be Taken from Arrestees Without Warrant.”