Maryland v. King Ruling: The Government Can Now Log Your DNA Without a Warrant

Today the Supreme Court ruled that a search warrant is not needed to collect your DNA.

In a close call of a decision, Court Justices ruled in Maryland v. King that a cheek swab is a "legitimate booking procedure" and therefore allowed under the Constitution. Proponents of this view liken the collection of DNA to the routine procedure of fingerprinting, while critics view this as a breach of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches.

Persons arrested under probable cause on felony charges can now be subject to DNA swabbing, even if no further action is taken on their arrest.

"The court's assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the state's custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the dissenting opinion. "And the court's comparison of Maryland's DNA searches to other techniques such as fingerprinting, can seem apt only to those who know more than today's opinion has chosen to tell them about how those DNA searches actually work."

Scalia further warns, "Make no mistake about it: because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason."

The database Scalia is referring to is CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). It's not as ominous as it sounds. In fact, it's not a database with your entire genetic code, potentially displaying health related information. It is a database of 13 carefully selected biomarkers deemed to be "junk DNA", meaning they are not linked to genes. Much of the genome contains this "junk" and since it is not functional, it's highly variable between individuals, making it very useful for identification.

Major crimes, such as rape in the King case, are often committed by individuals who have committed other crimes and therefore would likely be in the CODIS database under this new procedure. Having a DNA log of offenders could make the process of identifying suspects much easier. Additionally the cost of investigations could be significantly reduced if a software system, such as CODIS, could narrow down suspects. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Brooke Horton

Brooke is a scientist by training and writer by nature. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan who has performed research in neuroscience, cancer biology, and genomics. Her articles focus on the intersection of science with daily life. See more at www.BrookeNHorton.com

MORE FROM

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.