Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maryland court says no to DNA collection

Maryland's highest court blocked police in most cases from collecting DNA samples when they arrest suspects in violent crimes and burglaries.  The collection of DNA in Maryland is similar to what is done in nearly every state with regard to fingerprints.

The Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 that the state violated Alonzo Jay King Jr.'s constitutional rights by using DNA evidence taken from him after a 2009 assault arrest, reported the Baltimore Sun. That sample led to his conviction in a six-year-old rape case, but the court said it violated King's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches without a warrant. The judges ordered that King's rape case be sent back to Wicomico County Circuit Court for a new trial.

Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, told the Sun he was saddened by the court's decision, noting that it came during Victims' Rights Month. The governor said the law was one of the state's most valuable crime-fighting tools and that he has not ruled out an appeal to the Supreme Court.

"The concept is simple: When we increase the library of DNA samples in our state, we solve more crimes," O'Malley said in a statement, reported by the Sun. "We take more criminals off the streets more quickly and put them in jail for a longer period of time so that they cannot murder, rape or harm other citizens among us."

The state has collected nearly 16,000 DNA samples since the law took effect in January 2009 and used that evidence to gain 58 convictions, including in 34 burglaries and eight rapes. The court did not address whether the state could retain the samples on file.

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