In what will likely become a landmark criminal defense case, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling today that allows police to obtain and analyze an arrestee’s DNA as part of routine booking procedures. The majority opinion considered a DNA cheek swab to be similar to fingerprinting or taking booking photographs. The dissent, however, was very vocal that while this may solve some crimes, it is still invasive.
The decision was 5 to 4, and this extremely close case will likely have very serious considerations on criminal defense in Minnesota. Now, if someone is arrested, even for the most basic of things and even if the arrest was based on falsified or fraudulent evidence, the arrestee can have his or her cheek swabbed and the DNA entered into a national database that has DNA information from both federal, state and local governments. Many are concerned that someone could be arrested for something extremely minor, like loitering, and end up facing serious criminal charges.
So what does this mean for Minnesotans? It means that, at least until someone questions the limits of this new decision, if someone is arrested, even for something as insignificant as loitering, that he or she will have his or her DNA information scanned an analyzed against every piece of known or unknown DNA in an attempt to link the arrestee to an unsolved crime. It is still somewhat unclear if this ruling applies to both felonies and misdemeanors, as the case before the court was in regard to s statute that allowed for DNA tests of those arrested for felonies.
Source: The Associated Press, “Court: Police can take DNA swabs from arrestees,” Jesse J. Holland, June 3, 2013