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Feb 27, 2013

DNA Privacy in Criminal Cases

On February 26, oral arguments were presented on whether authorities can take the DNA of criminal suspects upon arrest but before they are convicted of a crime. Maryland officials maintain the state acted properly when it collected DNA by swabbing Alonzo Jay King, Jr.’s cheek when he was arrested in 2009 a year after the state expanded DNA sample collection to include suspects of felony first-degree assault. King’s DNA matched a sample stored in a state database in connection with a 2003 case in which a 53-year-old woman was raped, eventually resulting in the life sentence he is now serving. However, King contended that in collecting DNA before conviction, Maryland carried out an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. (Find out more about the case here.) Do you think Maryland authorities did the right thing by collecting King’s DNA?

Should authorities be allowed to take samples of DNA from criminal suspects upon arrest, but before they are convicted of a crime?

Yes, in all cases
Yes, but only in cases where the crime is particularly serious (e.g., rape, murder)
No, the ethical concerns are far too great

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