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Will Supreme Court DNA sample ruling affect arrestees in New York?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States made an important ruling that may soon affect anyone who is arrested for allegedly committing a serious criminal offense in New York.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it is not unlawful or in violation of citizens' privacy rights for law enforcement authorities to take DNA samples from suspects who have been arrested for committing serious offenses but who have not yet been convicted of the criminal offenses.

According to reports, law enforcement authorities in New York are now considering making it common practice to take DNA samples from arrestees. One day after the Supreme Court made its ruling, law enforcement authorities reported that the New York State Sheriffs Association plans on requesting that police be given permission from the state to collect DNA samples from individuals who are under arrest.

The Supreme Court ruled that DNA samples may be collected by having arrestees submit a cheek swab. The Supreme Court stated that a cheek swab conducted as part of standard booking procedures when an individual is arrested is similar to fingerprinting and photographing arrestees.

However, the issue with taking DNA samples is that the samples may be entered into a database that is used to help solve cold cases and to store DNA information that may be used to identify criminal suspects when crimes are committed in the future.

Some argue that this practice is an invasion of one's privacy, especially when law enforcement authorities have no reason to suspect arrestees of committing other offenses other than the offense or offenses they have been arrested for. Others worry about what else the government may do with stored DNA samples. And it has also been argued that labs may become so overwhelmed with processing samples that it may be easier for labs to make mistakes, such as contaminating samples or mixing up samples.

Currently, only 28 states allow law enforcement authorities to take DNA samples of suspects who are under arrest, but this week's ruling may have a significant impact on other states now that the justices have agreed the practice is not illegal and does not constitute as an unreasonable search. Already, law enforcement authorities want to take advantage of this ruling in New York.

Source: WETM, "NY Sheriffs Consider Asking State to Allow DNA Swabbing of People Under Arrest," Shannon Lins, June 4, 2013

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