COVID-19 Notice: We Are Here Fighting For You. Learn More.

Articles Posted in Court Rulings

Published on:

1038827_u_s__supreme_court_1.jpgThe United States Supreme Court will temporarily allow Maryland law enforcement agencies to resume their post arrest DNA testing policies according to an order signed by chief justice John Roberts. The DNA testing policies allow all Maryland law enforcement agencies to take DNA samples of suspects arrested for violent crimes such as robbery, assault, rape, and homicide. The law also allows police to take DNA from a suspect that is arrested for burglary. Although burglary is not a violent crime, it is a crime that is often only solved when forensic evidence such as DNA or latent fingerprints is recovered from the crime scene. Maryland police agencies are not allowed to take DNA samples upon arrest of suspects that are incarcerated for common non-violent crimes such as DUI, possession of marijuana, and drug distribution.

Earlier this year, the Maryland DNA sampling law was challenged in the Maryland Court of Appeals, and the Court ruled that the DNA collection policy was unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 4th Amendment protects citizens against unlawful government search and seizures, and it has been argued by the ACLU and the Public Defender’s Office that taking DNA samples upon arrest is an unlawful seizure. Most states only take DNA samples from defendants after a criminal conviction, or after a judge issues a warrant specifically allowing DNA collection. The ACLU also argued that Maryland’s DNA collection policy violates each citizen’s right to privacy. The Maryland high court agreed with the ACLU back in April, and reversed a 2009 rape conviction. The rape defendant was arrested on an unrelated assault charge, and pursuant to the Maryland DNA testing policy; his DNA was sampled and entered into a database. The database matched the DNA taken from the assault arrest with DNA that was recovered at the scene of an unsolved Maryland rape case, and thus an arrest warrant was issued for the rape defendant.
Continue reading →

Published on:

1010760_dna_1.jpgA recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision has declared that it is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy for police officers to obtain DNA samples from arrested individuals absent a criminal conviction. It has previously been the standard practice of the Maryland State Police and other police departments around the state to obtain DNA samples from any suspect charged with burglary, and certain violent crimes such as assault, rape, homicide, and aggravated assault. Under the recent ruling, Maryland police departments must now wait until prosecuting lawyers secure a criminal conviction before they can legally obtain DNA samples from a defendant. The ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the 2009 rape conviction of Alonzo Jay King Jr. when the court concluded that DNA samples that led to King’s rape conviction were the fruits of an illegal seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. King’s DNA sample was obtained after he was arrested for an unrelated assault case. The high court ruling has had an immediate impact upon law enforcement, as the Maryland state police department, headquartered in Pikesville, Maryland, has already instructed its employees to suspend DNA sampling of arrested suspects.

Despite the recent high court decision, some Maryland police departments originally went on record saying that they would continue their policies of sampling certain criminal suspects upon arrest. The Baltimore County police department and the Ann Arundel County police department had planned to wait on a decision as to whether the ruling would be appealed before halting their DNA sampling policies. In addition, the Baltimore City police department and the Howard County police department did not immediately suspend their DNA sampling policies, but rather were waiting specific instructions from the Maryland state public safety department, who is responsible for the sampling in those jurisdictions. These police departments did back down from their initial reluctance to follow the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, and have now joined the state police in directing employees to suspend DNA sampling upon arrest.
Continue reading →

Contact Information