Maryland legislators file brief on behalf of DNA collection -- Gazette.Net


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A group of 19 Maryland legislators joined Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the state’s highest court to strike down the state law permitting DNA collection from suspects charged with violent crimes and burglaries.

The state legislators’ brief, filed this week, asks the Supreme Court to take up the state’s appeal of the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling last April that found the DNA collection a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The legislators’ brief also points out that the General Assembly intends to take up debate on the DNA issue in the 2013 session. The DNA law was set to expire unless renewed before the Court of Appeals ruled that collecting the DNA samples from those charged with crimes violated their constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure.

“Maryland’s law has taken rapists and other dangerous offenders off our streets, and we stand behind that,” Del. Sam Arora (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring said. “The Court of Appeals has put a great deal at risk by disregarding federal court rulings on this issue. With more than half the states using similar statutes, we need the Supreme Court to speak definitively.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in July on the Court of Appeals ruling so the state could continue to collect DNA samples while the nation’s high court decides whether it will hear the case. An estimated 1 percent of cases appealed to the Supreme Court are accepted by the justices.

Until the Court of Appeals ruling, the state had been collecting DNA samples from individuals who were arrested by swabbing the inside of the cheek with a Q-tip-like device. The sample then was placed in a petri dish.

The Attorney General’s Office has said DNA collection has helped solve 190 cases in the state and has exonerated some people wrongly convicted.

cford@gazette.net