In 2009, a Maryland man named Alonzo King was arrested and charged with assault for pointing a shotgun at a group of people. Unfortunately for Mr. King, according to Maryland law a DNA sample can be taken from anyone who is merely arrested, regardless of whether or not he/she is later convicted. Mr. King’s DNA sample matched a sample taken from an unsolved rape case six years earlier. He is now serving life without parole.

The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Mr. King’s conviction on the grounds that the DNA sample constituted an “unreasonable search” not linked to the assault charge. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. And just this month the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that yes, it IS constitutional to collect DNA samples from people who have merely been arrested for serious crimes, as opposed to eventually convicted. According to the Supreme Court, a DNA sample not that much different from other currently used forms of identification, such as fingerprints and mugshots. In the Supreme Court’s opinion, the state’s interest in identification outweighs a person’s expectation of privacy.

Taking DNA samples after arrests for certain crimes is already the rule in 28 states. So if you are arrested for a serious crime in the future, the police may take a cheek swab for DNA analysis. Your DNA can then be checked against DNA samples already in the state’s database, and also against a national database maintained by the FBI. I hope your record is clean…

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