Supreme Court accepts DNA-related criminal appeals case

On behalf of Jack B. Rubin, PA posted in Criminal Appeals on Thursday, February 14, 2013.

In a post entitled “US Supreme Court Review Could Affect Maryland Criminal Appeals” dated Oct. 31, 2012, we discussed how the court was considering whether to review a lower court’s decision concerning the Maryland DNA Collection Act. At that point, there had not yet been any word on whether the Supreme Court would accept the criminal appeals case. Now, however, the court is set to begin hearing arguments regarding the appeal sometime in late February.

As some readers may recall, the Maryland Court of Appeals overruled a lower court’s conviction of a man charged with first-degree rape. In that case, the man had initially been arrested for assault in 2009 and had his DNA collected. Authorities then used his DNA, which they matched with a sample from an unsolved rape committed back in 2003, in order to convict him for the unrelated crime.

The man appealed his conviction on the grounds that it violated his right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Recently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an amicus brief regarding this issue set to go before the Supreme Court. In the filing, the group alleges that the Maryland law is not actually being used to confirm the identity of individuals that are suspected of committing a specific crime.

Instead, the brief maintains that police officials are violating the Fourth Amendment by engaging in wholesale collection of DNA in order to arrest individuals suspected of certain crimes for other unrelated crimes that authorities have no foundation to suspect them of committing. Both the man who filed the original criminal appeal and the EFF are arguing that the current Maryland DNA Collection Act violates citizens’ privacy rights. The outcome of this case could have implications not just for our own state, but for criminal appeals across the nation at large.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “DNA Collection Law Faces Big-Name Opponent,” Jonny Bonner, Feb. 5, 2013

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