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Supreme Court rules for routine DNA sample collection

Texas residents suspected of serious crimes may find themselves linked to another criminal charge by their DNA. The Supreme Court has ruled that the state can collect DNA samples from those who have been detained under the suspicion of a serious crime. The Supreme Court justices were divided on the issue and passed it with a vote of five to four. This ruling will benefit the police but may raise some privacy law concerns. This ruling has reinstated a conviction in a case where a man was convicted for a sexual assault that occurred in 2003 based on DNA evidence that was collected by police during an arrest for an assault charge six years later.

26 states and the federal government presently allow for routine DNA collection, but one of the Supreme Court justices is concerned that the ruling will pave the way for the collection of DNA during even minor offenses. This ruling is important because it is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on an issue of the privacy of genetic information.

Advocates for DNA collection defend the practice by pointing out that it will allow for the capture of serious criminals much faster than current protocols would. Advocates state that it is useful to be able to identify criminals even if they are caught on lesser offenses, and point to the case in which Timothy McVeigh was detained for driving without a license plate and then discovered to be the Oklahoma City bomber.

This ruling sets a precedent by which those that are detained for lesser charges may have their DNA collected for use in other cases. The Supreme Court ruling was not unanimous and there is still a lot of ongoing debate about DNA privacy concerns. Criminal defense attorneys may be necessary to help determine whether the use of DNA in their cases was legitimate and supported by precedent.

Source: Bloomberg, "Routine DNA Testing After Arrest Upheld by Top U.S. Court", Greg Stohr, June 03, 2013

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