Reporting Rochelle Ritchie
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Supreme Court is now scheduled to review a controversial DNA law which allows police to take samples of suspected criminals before they’re convicted.
The law is expected to be reviewed next year and political figures are already weighing in. Rochelle Ritchie explains what the courts could decide.
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender calls the measure an unlawful search and seizure, while advocates argue it’s helped bring cold-cases to a close and put criminals behind bars.
Governor O’Malley’s DNA law is under serious review by the U.S. Supreme Court after it was ruled unlawful by the high court, but later reinstated by the U.S. Chief Justice.
“It’s no different than taking fingerprints. No different than strip-searches or taking blood,” said U.S. Attorney General Doug Gansler.
The ACLU disagrees.
“DNA, on the other hand, reveals vast amounts of highly private personal confidential information about you,” said David Rocah, ACLU of Maryland.
The Supreme Court will now have the final say when they decide if the law should stay or go.
Governor O’Malley, who supported the law in 2009, released this statement:
“Allowing law enforcement to collect DNA samples from offenders charged with serious crimes is absolutely critical to our efforts to continue driving down crime in Maryland.”
The law worked in the case of a man charged with assault in 2009. When police took his DNA samples, they found it matched him to an unsolved rape case.
“We’re in the 21st century. We have the ability to use DNA to identify precisely who committed a crime in the past. We need that tool,” said Elise Armacost, Baltimore County Police.
Regardless of its success, the Md. Office of the Public Defender says it’s a violation of privacy.
“We are confident that when the court examines the merits of the case it will agree that the persons who are presumed innocent should not be subject to warrantless seizure,” Gansler said.
While police are all for obeying the law, they say changing this one could make the law harder to enforce.
“It’s going to impede us on putting certain bad guys behind bars,” Armacost said.
The NAACP has also opposed the law.
The DNA law helped prosecute 58 criminals between 2009 and 2011.