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Maryland Can Use DNA From Donors without a Court Order on Other Cases
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DNA swab

Summary: The recent ruling by the Maryland Appeals Court allows police to keep and reuse DNA given by donors in one investigation on other unrelated investigations.

Law enforcement in Maryland will be allowed to use DNA from volunteers in one case for other cases. The 5-to-2 ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals will change how police can collect and use DNA as evidence.


The dissenting votes voiced concerns over how this will affect the constitutional rights of privacy for those that willingly submit DNA for an investigation and then get their profile used in investigations of other unrelated crimes without a court order being required. The Court ruled that this will be allowed as long as the donor does not express limits of their consent.

George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr expressed his concerns, “In the physical world, you know what you’re consenting to if police say, ‘Can I search your car?’ With DNA and with computers, people might not know what consent means, how much information is contained there and what can be done with it. The real question is, are there any limits on government’s ability to scrape DNA from whatever you touch, test it and run it in a database at any time?”

The ruling stemmed from a case where a homeless man, George Varriale, agree in 2012 to let police take a cheek swab for a rape investigation. He was cleared but the county crime DNA administrator uploaded his DNA to the state and county databases. A match came up for a burglary in 2008. He entered a conditional guilty plea but then appealed.

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The ruling judges stated that because Varriale did not express limitations to his consent, it was not unreasonable for his DNA to be used for other unrelated investigations.




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