U.S. Supreme Court holds police can take DNA samples without a warrant upon the booking of a suspect.

Maryland v. King, No. 12–207, slip op (June 3, 2013).

In a divided decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held police could take DNA samples upon the arrest of an individual as part of the regular booking procedures.   The court analogized it to taking finger prints and mug shots.  The dissent argued the Court was allowing police to collect scientific evidence as an attempt to close cold case files, something previously rejected.

In this 50 page slip opinion the Court analyzed the constitutionality of the practice which was created in response to a Maryland statute authorizing such collection if utilized for “serious” criminal offenses. The Court ultimately held using a buccal swab inside a person’s cheek to obtain a DNA sample is a search under the Fourth Amendment. And the fact that the intrusion is negligible is of central relevance to determining whether the search is reasonable for constitutional purposes.  Since the search is minimal, it is reasonable for identification purposes.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.

Leave a Comment