The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear a huge genetic privacy case this month that one top high court expert called the “most important, overlooked case of the term.”In Maryland v. King, the high court will decide whether it’s OK for police to sample DNA of arrested people without a search warrant.
The practice has outraged privacy advocates, who say the police shouldn’t grab DNA until a person has been convicted, the LA Times has reported.
Maryland’s highest court pleased privacy advocates when it ruled cops needed a search warrant to collect DNA because it contains a “vast genetic treasure map.“
At least 21 states and the federal government require suspects to give DNA samples. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this term will determine whether that practice becomes the norm, the LA Times pointed out.
The U.S. Supreme Court should let states and the federal government keep collecting DNA. As the government argued in its brief in support of Maryland, the intrusion involved in swabbing someone’s cheek is “negligible” while the benefits of DNA testing are huge.
DNA evidence can take guilty people off the streets and exonerate the innocent.
In the underlying case that will be heard in the Supreme Court, Alonzo King was arrested for waving a gun in a threatening way, according to the LA Times.
The DNA sample that was taken during his arrest identified him as somebody who raped a woman six years prior to his arrest. He was convicted and given a life term.
If taking DNA of arrested people brings rapists to justice, then DNA collections during arrests should become the norm.
It’s true that DNA can with extensive scientific analysis provide a “vast genetic treasure map.”
But the analysis conducted to link suspects to crimes only identifies a unique “list of numbers” that can determine whether someone was at the scene of a crime, the U.S. points out.
“]T]he limited analysis of the DNA sample to obtain a DNA identification profile is … an insignificant intrusion,” the brief says. “A DNA profile is only a list of numbers; like a traditional fingerprint, it exposes nothing about a person’s physical characteristics, propensities, or medical conditions.”
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