Supreme Court Upholds DNA Swabs of Those Under Arrest

Not a violation of 4th Amendment

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 3, 2013 1:13 PM CDT
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(Newser) – DNA swabbing the cheek of a person arrested—but not yet convicted—for a "serious offense" is just as acceptable as fingerprinting and photographing that person, the Supreme Court ruled today. Such DNA swabs do not violate a person's Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches, the justices found. Interestingly, the conservative Antonin Scalia joined three liberal judges in dissenting (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan), which shows just how concerned he is with privacy issues, NBC News reports.

The case prompting the ruling involved a man, Alonzo King, who was arrested in 2009 on assault charges. The DNA swab police took ended up implicating him in an unsolved rape, for which he was convicted. That conviction was later reversed, on the grounds that the swab had violated King's Fourth Amendment rights, though KMBZ reports he is still serving his life sentence. But in its ruling, the court found that such swabbing is "a legitimate police booking procedure," particularly because it is not an intrusive procedure. Currently, 28 states and the federal government swab those who are under arrest.

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