High Court Lets Controversial Criminal DNA Collection Law Stay in Place for Now
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a controversial state DNA testing law to remain in effect until the justices have time to consider the broader constitutional questions.
Maryland’s DNA Collection Act permits police to collect genetic material from those who have been arrested, but not yet convicted.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued the three-page in-chambers opinion, putting a state court’s ruling favoring a criminal defendant on hold.
“Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population,” Roberts wrote. “Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm.”
The chief justice said there is a “fair prospect” the Supreme Court would ultimately find in favor of the state on the search and seizure questions.
After more legal briefs are filed, the high court in coming weeks will decide whether to hear the case and issue a definitive, binding ruling. Oral arguments would likely not be held until early next year.
A 1994 federal law created a national database in which local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies can compare and share information on DNA matches from convicted felons, but courts have been at odds on just when such samples can be collected and the information distributed.