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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    ABC News: Supreme Court to Hear Major DNA Case

    ABC News reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on a case concerning genetic privacy:

    The Supreme Court will revisit the crossroad of privacy and evolving science later this month when it considers whether officials can take the DNA — without a warrant — of someone who has been arrested but not convicted of a crime.

    While all states require DNA from individuals convicted of a felony, the federal government and 28 states also require DNA collection and analysis from at least some arrestees.

    Alonzo Jay King Jr, claims his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested in 2009 for assault. At the time of his arrest, pursuant to Maryland’s DNA Collection Act, officials swabbed his cheek and collected his DNA without a warrant.

    His 2009 sample was later matched in a state database to DNA from a 2003 rape case. It was a cold case involving a 53-year-old female victim identified as “Vonette W.” in Maryland. Based on the new evidence, King was eventually charged with the 2003 rape and robbery. He is currently serving a life sentence.

    Lawyers for King appealed the decision arguing that taking the warrantless DNA from someone who has been arrested but not convicted of a serious crime violates the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure. The Court of Appeals of Maryland ruled in King’s favor.

    The court rejected an analogy that taking the DNA was no more invasive than taking a fingerprint. [...]

    In court papers filed with the Supreme Court, the two sides address the balance between an individual’s privacy and the needs of law enforcement.

    King’s lawyers say that even though their client has diminished privacy as someone who had been arrested for a serious crime, the government has no right to forgo ordinary rules requiring a warrant and probable cause before forcing him to submit to a search for investigative purposes involving a physical intrusion into the body. [...]

    The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Feb. 26.

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