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Maryland Court Bans DNA Swabs of Charged Suspects, Prosecutors Seek Appeal
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Law enforcement officials in Maryland are upset over a Court of Appeals decision prohibiting DNA collections from charged suspects, who are not yet convicted of violent crimes. Police and prosecutors say that the ruling would allow dangerous criminals to remain undetected for longer time or fully elude the authorities.

Last week’s decision in the case of Alonzo Jay King Jr. v. State of Maryland the state’s Court of Appeals ruled swabbing of criminal suspects for DNA even if they are charged with crimes of violence leads to infringement of constitutional rights. The Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, police chiefs and prosecutors claim that they are also concerned with safeguarding the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens.

The police say that the ruling can already upset convictions of close to 34 robbers, burglars and rapists whose genetic samples were obtained while they were suspect for separate offenses. The police hold that the ruling would also severely hamper the ability of detectives to solve cold cases.

  
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Col. Marcus L. Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police said, “It really sets Maryland back in the crime fight.”

State authorities have stated that they will suspend collection of further DNA samples from suspects of violent crimes until the issue is settled at a higher forum. The law enforcement is urging the Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to apply for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.

O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland, has issued a statement in support of the DNA swabbing policy saying the concept is “simple”: “We take more criminals off the streets more quickly and put them in jail for a longer period of time so that they cannot murder, rape or harm other citizens among us.”

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Before the passing of the new law in 2009 that enabled police to collect DNA swabs from suspects of violent crime, police were only allowed to collect such swabs from convicted criminals.

The challenge brought by Alonzo Jay King has been upheld and supported by the Court of Appeals, but King is in no better shape. The controversial law that the Court of Appeals has struck down for now, helped DNA swab of the plaintiff to incontrovertibly establish a 2003 rape committed by him. He is now serving a life-term which would have been impossible without the present law on DNA swabbing suspects. So he challenged the law and the Court of Appeals, Maryland, has graciously complied.





 

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