Cumberland Times-News

November 12, 2012

DNA samples

Civil liberties must be considered

Cumberland Times-News

— The Supreme Court has a difficult decision to make when it reviews whether police can collect DNA samples from all people arrested, but not yet convicted, in a violent crime.

While no one wants to see violent offenders go free, the issue here is one of civil liberty.

The case came to the high court’s attention after a Maryland court ruled in Maryland v. King about DNA collected from Alonzo King upon his arrest for an unrelated assault charge. While the DNA did not link King to the crime for which he was arrested, it did tie him to a previous rape case. On the basis of the DNA, police charged King with rape.

Although King was convicted of rape, a state appeals court eventually reversed the conviction, holding that evidence obtained by the prosecution outside the parameters of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible and must be thrown out.

Citizens want law enforcement to be effective in catching and prosecuting violent offenders. At the same time, fair-minded people also know that civil liberties can not be ignored in the process.

If the Supreme Court eventually limits use of DNA sample collection from suspects, it will be up to Maryland and all other states to come with legislation that will restore DNA sample collections while at the same time not trampling on individual rights. It will be no easy solution to find.