AG Gansler Wins Supreme Court Ruling on DNA Collection Law
Justices: Maryland practice of swabbing upon arrest is constitutional
Baltimore, MD ( June 3, 2013) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler scored a significant victory today with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Maryland’s DNA collection law, which allows law enforcement to take a DNA sample from an individual upon arrest for a serious crime.
“This is a resounding victory for both law enforcement and civil libertarians,” said Attorney General Gansler. “This decision will help us solve cases and take criminals off the street. We were confident all along the Court would agree that taking a DNA swab is no more invasive than taking someone’s fingerprints - and that DNA is an important tool in both identifying the guilty and exonerating the wrongly accused.”
The 5-4 ruling in Maryland v. King reverses a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that nullified a conviction and life sentence in a 2003 rape case. The convicted rapist, Alonzo Jay King, was arrested in Wicomico County in April 2009 on assault charges and DNA evidence connected him to the 2003 rape.
“DNA identification is an advanced technique superior to fingerprinting in many ways, so much so that to insist on fingerprints as the norm would make little sense to either the forensic expert or a layperson,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “The additional intrusion upon the arrestee’s privacy beyond that associated with fingerprinting is not significant... and DNA is a markedly more accurate form of identifying arrestees.”
The case surrounding Maryland’s DNA collection law, which went into effect in 2009, led Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to call it “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case” in decades.
In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Chief Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree, Criminal Appeals Chief Brian Kleinbord, Criminal Appeals Deputy Chief Mary Ann Ince, and Assistant Attorneys General Robert Taylor, Carrie Williams and Daniel Jawor for their hard work on this case.