The Supreme Court decided today that your DNA is no different than your fingerprints. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in Maryland v. King, No. 12-207, that police may take a DNA sample from you at the time of your arrest for a serious crime. The decision reverses a decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals which had overturned a conviction and the state’s law, saying that the seizure of an arrested person’s DNA violated the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the majority opinion and stated in open court:
“The court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment law: that the government may not search its citizens for evidence of crime unless there is a reasonable cause to believe that such evidence will be found. Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Scalia.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the decision that DNA can be taken from those suspected of “serious” crimes and that police have a legitimate interest in identifying the person taken into custody.
Today’s ruling virtually eliminates all privacy rights for an arrested individual, including, of course, those arrested illegally, and emphasizes that crime-fighting tactics are more important than one’s privacy.