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Maryland v. King


The defendant was arrested for first and second-degree assault. At the jail, pursuant to state statute, officers used a cheek swab to collect a DNA sample from inside the defendant’s mouth. This evidence caused the defendant to be identified as the perpetrator in an unsolved sexual assault.


Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits the collection of a DNA sample from persons arrested, but not yet convicted, on felony charges?


No. When the defendant’s arrest upon probable cause for a serious offense results in detention, the government is reasonable in conducting a DNA swabbing is consistent with traditional identification procedures under the Fourth Amendment.


The Court held that, though this was the first case it examined the DNA swab procedure, “the framework for deciding the issue is well established.” “In some circumstances, such as ‘[w]hen faced with special law enforcement needs, diminished expectations of privacy, minimal intrusions, or the like, the Court has found that certain general, or individual, circumstances may render a warrantless search or seizure reasonable.’” Citing Illinois v. McArthur.

The Court found that such a reasonable search occurred in this case, as the government has long been empowered to collect identifying information from lawfully arrested persons. “A DNA profile is useful to the police because it gives them a form of identification to search the records already in their valid possession. In this respect the use of DNA for identification is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect; or matching tattoos to known gang symbols to reveal a criminal affiliation; or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene.”


569 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1958 (2013)

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