U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice's Stay Order Suggests Court Will Consider Constitutionality of DNA Tests for Arrestees

An order by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is allowing Maryland police to continue collecting DNA samples from those who are arrested for serious crimes.

Roberts said there is a “fair prospect” that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn an April ruling by Maryland’s highest court, which found the state’s DNA law violated the Fourth Amendment. The law authorizes DNA collection from individuals charged with but not yet convicted of violent crimes and burglaries.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), the Washington Post, the New York Times and SCOTUSblog have stories on Roberts’ order (PDF) staying the Maryland ruling.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar law in March. The appeals court has agreed to rehear the case en banc. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court have also upheld similar DNA collection statues, Roberts said.

“The split implicates an important feature of day-to-day law enforcement practice in approximately half the states and the federal government,” Roberts wrote. “Indeed, the decision below has direct effects beyond Maryland: Because the DNA samples Maryland collects may otherwise be eligible for the FBI’s national DNA database, the decision renders the database less effective for other states and the federal government. These factors make it reasonably probable that the court will grant certiorari to resolve the split on the question presented. In addition, given the considered analysis of courts on the other side of the split, there is a fair prospect that this court will reverse the decision below.”

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