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WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court says police can legally take DNA without a warrant from those arrested in hopes of using it to solve old cases.

The justices, on a 5-4 vote, say taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested for various crimes, long before their guilt or innocence has been proven, does not violate the Constitution.

At least 28 states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court said it was illegal for that state to take Alonzo King’s DNA without approval from a judge. That court said King had “a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches.”

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court, called DNA cheek swabs “a legitimate police booking procedure” like fingerprinting or photographing.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comment on this Story

  • jj

    I think this is a poor decision by the court. No, I don’t have anything to hide and I have worked in law enforcement at both the local and Federal level. I have no problem after you are convicted, but when you are only charged with a crime, I think it is going to far.

    So, those you who are asked to give a swab the next time you are given a traffic ticket will begin to see why. Yes, a traffic ticket is an arrest and you or released (Bailed out) on your signature.

  • Vog46

    Nicely done Supreme Court.
    Finally a judicial decision that will HELP with solving past crimes and keep REPEAT criminals off the streets longer.
    Anyone who objects to this must not want to be caught for various transgressions they’ve committed in the past or knows somebody else with the same situation.

    I would go so far as require DNA swabbing for all children in schools so as to have a record should they be abducted, killed going to or from school, or hurt or killed in tornado’s.
    This would make identification complete and verifiable.
    Why rail against this? We are going to eventually get drug testing for entitlement seekers. We pee in cups for many employers nowadays as well as allow for credit and criminal background checks to get a job.
    So how could ANYONE say the government is getting too personal with this, heck they’re already at a police station for something. If we can solve just ONE past crime? It’s worth the effort.


  • Guest2609

    Vog, for once I agree with you. I couldn’t have said it better. If you have nothing to hide why oppose it. And I think you are on the mark. When they are born having the DNA results in a database for such purposes that you mention.

  • ChefnSurf

    – “they’re already at a police station for something” ….. Just because they’re at the police station doesn’t mean they actually did something wrong, unless you think law enforcement always get it right. If a person is convicted of a crime, that’s a different story.

    – “We are going to eventually get drug testing for entitlement seekers” ….. Drug testing for entitlements is a quid pro quo. A government taking an innocent person’s DNA against their will is most certainly not.

    Voluntary, as in voluntary and not forced submissions of DNA to a government data base is a choice not to be taken away from an innocent individual. Slippery slopes can develop into dangerous scenarios with a life all of their own.

  • Wilmington Observer

    You should read the article again. The article, clearly, states that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that this is not a violation of, certain, arrestees’ rights. If it is not “illegal” then the “police who carry out these acts” are not doing anything to be “personally responsible” for. My opinion, of the ruling aside;. until such a time as the Court reverses itself, the “police” are not liable.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Guestomfg

    Unless its your daughters possible rapist? If you are innocent you shouldn’t have a problem with it. ALL men already incarcerated should be in the DNA database and anyone arrested for violent crimes.

  • Patriotic Joe

    our government is criminal, that is clear. the way to stop this is to hold the police who carry out these acts personally responsible for violating your rights!

  • Guest2020

    The police are only doing their jobs in enforcing the laws. It is the Supreme Court that is responsible for this gross violation of our rights.

  • GuestUSMC

    Maybe when the government requires that all citizens have their social security number tattooed across their foreheads, you imbeciles will wake up. This is illegal search and constitutes breach of self-incrimination safeguards. At least we have 4 justices with some common sense. This will come up again.

  • Guest2020

    So, what you and Vog are saying is that innocent people shouldn’t exercise their rights? I am not a criminal. There is nothing in my history more serious than a speeding ticket. This is an overreach of the government and once again, the Supreme Court got it wrong.

  • If you have nothing to hide then you wouldn’t mind if the police searched your home without a warrant.

  • Vog46

    Read the story …again.
    This applies to people who have been ARRESTED.
    Nope you can’t search my home.
    But if I’ve been arrested? That changes everything.
    It was a good decision


  • tke1

    If you are in custody and are being fingerprinted and photographed, you are not there for speeding or jaywalking. I could see your concern if the cop were doing anal swabs or something.

  • Guest2020

    So, everyone that gets arrested is guilty? The police never make a mistake and arrest the person? I object to any infringement of my rights. For example, I would never let a law enforcement officer search my property without a warrant. I don’t have anything to hide, I just value my privacy.

  • Guestexcop

    I think this is a poor decision by the court. No, I don’t have anything to hide and I have worked in law enforcement at both the local and Federal level. I have no problem after you are convicted, but when you are only charged with a crime, I think it is going to far.

    So, those you who are asked to give a swab the next time you are given a traffic ticket will begin to see why. Yes, a traffic ticket is an arrest and you or released (Bailed out) on your signature.

  • Guest4572

    The, “if you aren’t guilty, why object” is such a slippery slope. We need to put heavy restrictions on this, and other, creeping incursions into our personal freedoms. It may sound alarmist, but seriously, can’t you see what even the slightest abuse could lead to ?

    Or perhaps you think the IRS was right on target in their latest endeavor to thwart conservative groups?

    If a parent wants to DNA type their kid and register them, fine. If the kid wants to imbed a chip in grandpa so they can find him when he wanders off the nursing home campus, fine. But no government agency should have such power. Or, as per your argument in favor, let’s just collect DNA samples from everyone and have a national database on everyone, just in case.

    And I don’t have anything to hide. But I was once falsely arrested.

  • Monkey Junction

    I can see both sides of this issue. However, I think this is overstepping the authority of law enforcement. I think it is very dangerous to say that people should be ok with this if they have nothing to hide. I have committed no crimes yet I oppose this decision. Arrests are not convictions and I can see this genetic information used beyond the scope of simply solving cold cases or other crimes.

    Also interesting to see what justices dissented. Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Scalia are not your normal SCOTUS voting block.

  • tke1

    I can see your point regarding the misuse of the DNA data, especially with the current Democrat administration misusing the ATF, IRS, Justice Department, etc. When the IRS controls your medical history, a la Obamacare, who would not be concerned?

  • Guest9743

    No one should be surprised at this decision….all but one are republican appointees, now you should be able to see who is trying to take your rights away.

  • tke1

    All but one are republican appointees?????You better check again.
    You are more interested in politicizing the procedure than assuring justice for victims of crimes. Like the court said, they are being processed anyway. It is nothing more than fingerprints or photographs.

  • Guest 1417

    Check your facts, 4 out of the 9 were appointed by Dems. Your liberal ways have blocked the truth like most Democratic supporters.

  • Guest45

    well since most don’t have a problem with it lead by example, let all the federal employees, politicians and staff included, along with all state employees, politicians and staff, including all LEO’s and judges have their DNA swabs taken first, then maybe John public will feel a little better about having his rights to unwarranted search and seizures taken away, what is to say there will not be a few bad apple law enforcements that play by the same twisted rules the IRS was just caught at? I view it the same way as mandantory drug testing, I have no problem with it as long as “everyone” plays by the same set of rules, no exceptions!

  • Vog46

    I believe I am right on this one. (And its not a bad thing to disagree)
    The key here is ARREST. Arrest is different than coming to the station for questioning.
    The ruling stated if arrested.
    It also does not invade a persons right to privacy because once you are arrested your rights change. The arrest does not assume guilt, but it does reflect probable cause. Only a DA can bring charges and ONLY a judge can confirm the charges at arraignment.
    Look I’m well aware that mistakes happen but in law enforcement’s defense those mistakes a few and far between. Yes you can be at a police station and they can then find out that you did not commit any crime.
    They at that point will have already taken your wallet (with ID) and conducted a search (pat down or strip) for two reasons
    Identification and
    removal of weapons
    If DNA is a form of ID what is the objection? If DNA can be used to free an erroneously charged person why not for solving older crimes? If it is legal for one it should be legal for the other.

  • Vog46


    ” If a person is convicted of a crime, that’s a different story.”
    so a misdemeanor conviction would justify taking of DNA?
    Lets say its misdemeanor assault on a female. You would approve DNA sampling after that conviction?
    Now what happens if that DNA proves the person is guilty of a previous crime?
    Or a previous repeat offense?
    This could really screw up sentencing.
    That’s why it needs to be done at the early stages not after conviction IMHO.


  • Guest-o-matic

    …don’t really understand the confusion on the “rights” issues I hear.
    When a person is arrested and taken to jail, they are automaticaly fingerprinted and photgraphed. These ID forms are never retracted and are permanently in the database. This has been the norm since the advent of fingerprint ID technology and the camera. Fingerprints and photographs get compiled into a national database whether or not you are convicted of the alleged crime. These two forms of identification have led to the resolution of literally millions of crimes. DNA mapping is yet another more accurate and fully diversified form of identification that even more accurately identifies the criminal or exonerates him/her from that case. DNA doesn’t lie and is essential in assault, murder and sex-related crime resolution as a minimum. It is already legal to obtain DNA samples from convicted felons for permanent input into the database as it very well should be.

    I’m just not seeing this as a barcode being tattooed on your forehead so you can obtain your soylent green wafers. It is only another, more accurate and conclusive form of ID that will either conclusivly convict you or set you free.

  • jj

    If someone steals a copy of your finger prints what do they have? However, DNA can be used for more things that you will know. To me it belongs to me and shouldn’t be something that can taken from you. You stated “It is already legal to obtain DNA samples from convicted felons for permanent input into the database as it very well should be.” Nothing wrong with this you are convicted of a crime.

    Remember a traffic ticket is an arrest. They will be wanting you to give a swab on the side of the road.

  • Patriotic Joe

    i said, the gov is criminal…. that means their enforcement arm is also criminal, if you are not smart enough to understand what freedom means, you get what you have coming… it is my opinion, that the police should be arresting the gov not helping them.

  • Guest1851658

    4 out of the 5 that voted for this invasive power are Republican appointees. A very sad day for all Americans. The 4 Justices that voted against it are quite upset, as well. One of them even said that he did not think our forefathers would look too kindly of having the inside of his mouth swabbed by a cop. Just another bit of freedom that has vanished and some think it is a good thing. Our nation will not survive another 10 years. Maybe things will be better after the Chinese takeover.

  • SurfCityTom

    why don’t you jump up and down; beat your chest; and make comments about the lone Democrat who voted with the Republicans?

    That one vote made the difference.

  • Guest4397

    That one vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, a republican appointee, made all the difference and gave us Obamacare when he sided with the liberals…guess it kind of work both ways doesn’t it.

  • GuestO’Day

    1417, instead of name-calling and bad mouthing what you call “liberals”, had you taken the time to check you would see that the majority siding with this ruling were Republican nominees including Justices Alito, Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, and Kennedy with the Court’s majority being set by Democratic nominee Breyer.

    The dissenters were Democratic nominees, Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Ginsburg joined by Republican nominee Scalia.

    The Supreme Court is 5-4 Republican nominees…. Scalia, 1986 Reagan nominee; Kennedy, 1988 Reagan nominee; Thomas, 1991 GHW Bush nominee; Alito, 2006 GW Bush nominee; Chief Justice Roberts, 2005 GW Bush nominee.

    The Democratic nominated Justices are Ginsburg and Breyer nominated by Clinton, and Sotomayor and Kagan, nominated by Obama.

  • Guest-o-matic

    First of all, a normal traffic ticket is not an “arrest”, you are issued a summons to appear in court to have your charge heard. Unless there is a DWI, drugs are discovered, some sort of obvious negligence resulting in death or any other serious crime is committed, you are written a summons and are free to go. If they take you to jail and book you, you will be fingerprinted, photgrahed and that will be come part of the permanent database inconsequential to the outcome.

    “Steal your DNA?” That’s very easy to do by anyone at basically anytime. Your lip print with saliva off of a glass, a cigarette butt with saliva on it, your hair falling out and captured, loose skin cells from clothing. Just a little strategy, a trick or two and they have you if they want you! What are you afraid of that they may do with it?


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