Supreme Court Okays Warrantless DNA Sampling

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&search_tracking_id=Mr01pjaTzsznRmPWykfWTA&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=dna+test&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=129794300&src=tYRDqHBoLszvjpCJxTxrxQ-1-4">damerau</a>/Shutterstock

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Police can force suspects arrested for serious crimes to give DNA samples, a divided Supreme Court ruled, 5 votes to 4, on Monday (PDF). Law enforcement officials in 28 states already routinely collect DNA from alleged criminals, but privacy advocates had argued that taking suspects’ DNA without a search warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The high court’s decision could lead to a massive national DNA database, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia warned in a dissent joined by three of the more liberal justices.

The case, Maryland v. King, originated from the arrest of Alonzo King, whose DNA was taken against his will after he was picked up for a gun-related assault charge. King was convicted of the gun charge, but officials also matched his DNA to evidence from an unsolved rape case. That, King argued, violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Maryland’s Supreme Court agreed. (For more background on the case, read our report from February.)

The Supreme Court’s five-justice majority struck down the Maryland court’s ruling, noting that DNA sampling is routine police procedure. “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

The other four justices didn’t take the decision so lightly. “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,” wrote Scalia, who sometimes splits with his right-wing colleagues on civil liberties issues. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Scalia’s dissent.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate