The Constitutionality of any law always brings about heated debates and plenty of scathing statements from both sides. In the case of DNA sampling, it may be hard to believe but the law enforcement community is still wrestling with the best ways to handle certain situations. The 2009 case of Alonzo King created a 2013 Supreme Court decision that is still a hotly debated topic in the legal world.
The Case Of Alonzo King
In 2009, Alonzo King was arrested for waving a gun around in a crowd. After his arrest, the police took a DNA sample from King and it wound up matching the DNA sample for a person who committed a rape in 2003. King was arrested and tried for the rape as well as his original menacing charge, and that incident set off a series of debates.
In 2009, it was not assumed that the police were allowed to take a DNA sample from someone they had arrested without a warrant. But in 2013, the United States Supreme Court upheld both of King’s conviction and ruled that the police could take DNA samples from arrestees without a warrant.
In an ironic twist, the court that ruled on King’s rape case acquitted King because the court ruled that the police needed a search warrant for the DNA sample. Specifically, the court ruled that there was no specific reason to attach King to that case without the DNA, which made the use of the DNA illegal.
The Fourth Amendment
Much of King’s defense for the rape case centered around the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment states that no one should be subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant. The Supreme Court noted that using a cotton swab to take DNA from a suspect is not unreasonable search and seizure.
Opponents of the new 2013 ruling said that the lack of force that comes with getting a DNA sample has nothing to do with the legality of it. Using DNA to match criminals to crimes for which they have not been formally arrested makes the use of DNA unreasonable in those cases.
The Bottom Line
At least 30 states and the federal government have laws in place that allow the police to legally take a DNA sample during an arrest. It is possible that if you are arrested in one of the states that does not have its own law on DNA sampling in effect, that you might not get your DNA taken. But as time has gone by, more and more police departments across the country are making DNA samples an automatic part of the arrest process.
The debate about using DNA to prosecute cold cases still rages on and it is expected to rage on for some time. While it is legal for any police department in the country to take the DNA of a suspect that is being arrested, getting positive results for those DNA samples in association with a cold case still on the books does not always guarantee a successful arrest and prosecution.