Monday, June 3, 2013

DNA swabs following arrest; (Maryland V King); U.S. Supreme Court upholds state law. Justice Scalia: "A terrifying principle." Civil liberties groups: Worried about errors by overwhelmed lab technicians - such as the Nevada lab mistake that sent Dwayne Jackson, an innocent man, to prison for armed robbery. CNN.

STORY: "Supreme Court: DNA swab after arrest is legitimate search," by reporter Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer, published by CNN on June 3, 2013.

GIST: In a 5-4 decision, the high court likens taking a DNA sample to fingerprinting an arrestee. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia says the ruling establishes a "terrifying principle." Civil liberties groups worry about errors by overwhelmed lab technicians........."The Supreme Court has ruled criminal suspects can be subjected to a police DNA test after arrest -- before trial and conviction -- a privacy-versus-public-safety dispute that could have wide-reaching implications in the rapidly evolving technology surrounding criminal procedure. At issue in the ruling Monday was whether taking genetic samples from someone held without a warrant in criminal custody for "a serious offense" is an unconstitutional "search." A 5-4 majority of the court concluded it is legitimate, and upheld a state law. "When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee's DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," the majority wrote.........A divided Maryland Court of Appeals later agreed with King, saying suspects under arrest enjoy a higher level of privacy than a convicted felon, outweighing the state's law enforcement interests. That court also said obtaining King's DNA immediately after arrest was not necessary in identifying him, and that the process was more personally invasive than standard fingerprinting. But the high court decided in favor of the state. Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito. The issue of citizen privacy has been particularly acute since the 9/11 attacks. Federal and state governments have stepped up surveillance of suspected terrorists and their allies and of high-risk targets, like government buildings and shopping malls. The current conservative-majority court has generally been supportive of law enforcement in recent search and privacy disputes, but not always. The court last year ruled police could not place a GPS tracking device on a drug suspect's car for several weeks without first obtaining a search warrant. In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority's reasoning established a "terrifying principle." "The court's opinion barely mentions the crucial fact about this case: the search here was entirely suspicionless. The police had no reason to believe King's DNA would link him to any crime." Scalia added the state law "manages to burden uniquely the sole group for whom the Fourth Amendment's protections ought to be most jealously guarded: people who are innocent of the state's accusations," describing of the legal concept of innocent until proven guilty. He was supported by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Scalia's prior support of Fourth Amendment protections is well-documented, so his siding with three more liberal members of the court was not surprising.........Civil liberties groups worry inadequate testing by overwhelmed lab technicians can lead to errors, such as the one that sent Dwayne Jackson to prison for armed robbery. It was three years before a lab mistake was noticed, and the Nevada man was freed as an innocent man."

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