WASHINGTON—A case that is being heard by the Supreme Court could change when and how police gather DNA evidence in the future.
The court is considering whether states can analyze DNA from people who were arrested for a serious crime before they are convicted.
The case centers around a Maryland man who says his Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches was violated by the practice.
Currently, the FBI stores more than 1 million DNA samples that were obtained from individuals arrested but not convicted of a crime.
In 2009, Alonzo King Jr. became one of them.
Police arrested King for felony assault, took his DNA and linked it to a separate rape case.
He was convicted of the crime.
Kannon Shanmugam, King’s attorney, said, “The government conducted the search in this case for the invalid purpose of investigating other crimes for which the government lacked individualized suspicion.”
Now his attorney is arguing that the state violated King’s right to privacy by conducting a warrantless search.
All 50 states take DNA samples from convicted criminals and 28 of those also gather DNA from individuals arrested but not yet convicted.
Attorneys for Maryland argued the information has helped officers solve hundreds of cold cases not related to the initial arrest.
Doug Gansler, Maryland Attorney General, said, “This is one of the most important criminal procedure cases they’ve had in decades because DNA is the 21st century fingerprint.”
Justices are weighing whether the government’s desire to solve cold cases outweighs the right of an individual charged with a crime but not convicted of one to keep their DNA out of the system.
Justice Stephen Breyer compared DNA to a fingerprint calling it “no more intrusive” and “much more accurate.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued a different point saying, “There is something inherently dangerous that is not the same as fingerprinting.”
The Supreme Court is expected to make a final decision before the summer.
If justices rule in favor of King, more than 1 million DNA samples in the federal database will have to be destroyed.