Howard County Officials Decry Maryland DNA Ruling

What do you think of the ruling?

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled this week that part of a state law that allows law enforcement to collect DNA from anyone arrested for a crime of violence is unconstitutional when it overturned a rape conviction and life sentence Tuesday.

Patch wants to know your thoughts on this state ruling. Tell us in comments.

Local law enforcement officials are among those protesting the ruling.

Howard County State’s Attorney Dario J. Broccolino, president of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, said in a press release that the ability to collect DNA samples from suspects is an “important crime fighting tool.” 

William McMahon, Howard CountyChief of Police and president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association said in a statement that DNA collection as a tool, "has been invaluable in our effort and duty to keep citizens safe."

The conviction and sentence of Alonzo Jay King Jr. was overturned Tuesday in a 5-2 vote. The court ruled Wicomico County police violated King’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches when they arrested him in 2009 and took a sample of his DNA, according to court documents and a story on WashingtonPost.com.

The DNA collected from that arrest generated a match to a sample collected from a 2003 sexual assault, according to documents stating the court opinion.

That match provided was the only probable cause provided for a grand jury indictment of King on rape charges, according to court documents. King was convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life in prison.

"The DNA evidence presented at trial was a fruit of the poisonous tree," the court opinion states.

The sample was taken under the Maryland DNA Collection Act which allows police to collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, but not yet convicted, for crimes of violence or burglary or attempting these crimes.

Do you think police should have the right to search a person arrested under suspicion of committing or attempting a violent crime? Or do you agree with the ruling that it is a violation of rights?

Brandie Jefferson April 26, 2012 at 08:52 PM
What would you think if the law was that a DNA sample was taken after someone was convicted of a violent crime, not just indicted?
Elizabeth April 26, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hell yeah! If you are in a situation of being in police custody, of course taking DNA is right. They have probably been arrested before. This is sooo stupid.
ECLibertarian April 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Using Elizabeth's line of thinking - why even wait until they are in police custody? How about we just do this as a de facto standard for traffic stops? Even better, how about any interaction with law enforcement is grounds for getting your DNA swabbed. After all, it surely will catch a few criminals. Never mind the fact it may unintentionally incriminate hundreds of people. It's thinking like this that is eroding our freedoms! Innocent until proven guilty - there's a reason for that. Better to let a criminal or two go free before incarcerating a single innocent person. Regarding Brandie's comment - swabbing after conviction I believe would be totally plausible and acceptable - you've already lost some of your civil rights by virtue of being convicted.
James L. Mayer April 27, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Mr. Broccolino may be correct, it may be a valuable law enforcement too, but we do have a constitution which requires probable cause for searches. Just being arrested for a crime, not yet proven, does not constitute probable cause to search (swab) for a different, unknown, crime. The constitution is there to protect us all and short cuts just end up being used against innocent people later.
K. Klein May 16, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Not an easy question given that a DNA proven rapist has been set free who should pay for the crime and be prevented from committing another by incarceration. DNA has also set free those wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit and I cannot see how it can unintentionally incriminate anyone. Americans are already subjected to manual and electronic searches without arrest and certainly before a crime has been proven (tried to get on a plane lately?) I cannot support further erosion of our civil rights The real pity here is the paucity of victims rights versus those of criminals.


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