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Top Court upholds DNA testing procedures in MD case

DNA testing procedures in California are more expansive than similar practices recently upheld in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning a Maryland case. The ruling stems from a case involving the reinstatement of a rape charge after a DNA test was taken during an arrest on an unrelated charge. California is one of 26 states that allows DNA testing when arrested. The decision could convince authorities in these states to reopen older cases to look for new connections.

The ruling does not prevent DNA evidence from being challenged as part of a criminal defense for cases involving violent crimes, rape allegations, gang crimes and other possible felonies. Some states, however, limit the use of DNA testing to felony arrests only. The court's dissenting opinion notes that the ruling may extend DNA testing to arrests for misdemeanor offenses.

California's DNA laws, in effect since 2009, require that anyone facing felony charges be swabbed. The state may then use that DNA sample at any time to check its databases. According to California's DNA collection procedures, even an individual with an overturned criminal conviction must apply to have all DNA records removed from the state system. There is concern that individuals facing allegations that prove to be false or with a record later expunged will have a DNA sample in the system.

Challenges to the state law usually note Fourth Amendment issues. If a criminal trial results in a not guilty verdict, a DNA sample left in the system could still have long-term consequences. When building a defense in a criminal case, an experienced attorney can help sort through DNA collection procedures and pinpoint any possible errors. Source: Web: "California DNA Law is Broader Than Program Upheld By Supreme Court," Maura Dolan, 06/03/13

Source: Bloomberg, "Routine DNA Testing After Arrest Upheld by Top U.S. Court", Greg Stohr , June 03, 2013

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