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Safeguards present in Maryland DNA swab law

Despite a Supreme Court ruling regarding the DNA swab law in Maryland, other states are attempting to challenge similar laws. According to reports, California is one such state. In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of a Maryland law that allows police to swab the inside of someone's cheek for DNA that will be submitted to a database containing information for unsolved crimes. No warrant is needed for this, thanks to the state law, if the crime is considered serious, which usually means that the act included some sort of violence. The Supreme Court ruling was not unanimous; in fact, it was a 5-4 decision. According to the majority opinion, DNA sampling is similar to fingerprinting.

Even with that ruling, though, others are attempting to challenge their own state's version of the DNA-swab law. For example, California's version gives police the ability to take DNA from anyone who has been arrested on suspicion of committing a felony, a category of crimes that includes repeated shoplifting and drug possession. This could mean that many people who have committed less-than-serious crimes will have their DNA placed into a similar unsolved crimes database. Previously, California only allowed individuals convicted of felonies to have their DNA taken by authorities.

A federal appeals court will hear the case against the law in the near future. According to opponents, some safeguards that are in place in the Maryland law are not apparent in the California legislation. One of these safeguards is the destruction of DNA samples if a judge decides that the authorities did not have probable cause to make the arrest or if prosecutors elect not to file felony charges against the defendant.

Regardless of where you live, it is important to understand your rights as a defendant. If you have been charged with any sort of crime, you should consider speaking with a criminal defense lawyer about your circumstances. Your attorney will work diligently to build strong defense on your behalf in order to give you the best chance at a positive outcome in your case.

Source:  SFGate.com, "Federal appeals court to hear DNA-swab law" Bob Egelko, Aug. 15, 2013

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