In February 2013, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced a budget initiative, which aims to expand DNA collection to those arrested on felony charges. Under Wisconsin’s current law, DNA is taken only from convicted felons and those convicted of a few misdemeanors.
At this time, 25 states and the federal government collect DNA upon felony arrest. Proponents of such laws say the initiative saves lives by identifying serious offenders and putting them behind bars. However, those who oppose the idea note that the DNA collection of arrestees undermines the presumption of innocence.
Nevertheless, the issue will soon be before the Supreme Court of the United States. In Maryland vs. King, the Court will determine whether police can take a DNA sample from someone who has been arrested – not convicted – of a crime.
In King, a suspect was arrested for felony assault. When taken into custody, a sample of his DNA was collected from authorities. The DNA was analyzed through the Combined DNA Index System, which linked the suspect to a separate 2003 rape. The suspect was convicted in the original assault charge. However, the man was also convicted of rape for the 2003 attack due to the DNA match. The man was sentenced to life without parole.
Maryland had a law similar to Wisconsin’s recent initiative. When the defendant appealed his rape conviction, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the DNA collection law, asserting that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures prohibits those not convicted of violent crimes from having their DNA cataloged.
With the appeal pending, a professor from Marquette University Law School asserts that the Court’s ruling will have an impact on the quantity of DNA samples that are available for testing. Wisconsin’s proposal demands $6 million in funding. Yet, DNA samples under the initiative will be collected for several felony charges, including juvenile felony crimes. With this in mind, scholars question the ability of the state to fund the proposal.
Inevitably, the ruling in King will affect the legitimacy of Wisconsin’s proposal. The result could make the scheme unconstitutional – not in accordance with the Fourth Amendment.
If you have been charged with a serious crime, you should know that you retain special criminal justice protections. To strongly assert your rights and privileges, retain the assistance of a qualified criminal law attorney.