U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia and Kagan appear most skeptical about DNA collection from arrestees

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Justice Antonin Scalia appeared unimpressed with the statistics on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of collecting DNA samples from those arrested for serious crimes.

Scalia commented after Maryland’s chief deputy attorney general, Katherine Winfree, offered some statistics, report the National Law Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Winfree said that, since 2009, the state’s DNA collection law had resulted in in 225 matches, 75 prosecutions and 42 convictions. The law, like those on the books in about half the states, does not require a search warrant before DNA is collected from arrestees.

At that point, “Scalia pounced,” according to the Post account. “Well, that’s really good,” Scalia said. “I’ll bet if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you’d get more convictions, too. That proves absolutely nothing.”

The argument produced unusual coalitions among justices of differing ideologies, the Post says. Scalia and Justice Elena Kagan were most critical of the Maryland statute, while Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Justice Stephen G. Breyer were most supportive. Alito called the case “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.”

The defendant in the case, Alonzo King Jr., was linked to a 2003 rape after police swabbed his cheek for DNA following a 2009 assault arrest. The case is Maryland v. King.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Chemerinsky: Does the Fourth Amendment still fit the 21st Century?”

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court to Decide if Police Can Take DNA from Suspects Arrested for Serious Crimes”

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