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Supreme Court: okay to collect DNA after an arrest

A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court may not change DNA collection laws in Colorado but it does highlight the debate surrounding laws that allow police to collect DNA samples without a warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that it is okay for police to collect DNA from individuals arrested for a crime without getting a search warrant.

The Supreme Court justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that collecting DNA from individuals arrested for a crime does not violate their rights against unlawful search and seizure. The justices said that collecting DNA after an arrest is the same as collecting fingerprints and taking photographs of arrestees.

The ruling reaffirms the Colorado law that allows suspects arrested of a felony crime to have their DNA collected, tested and stored in the state's DNA database. Since the state passed the law allowing DNA to be collected for felony arrests, they reported having 542 "hit" in their DNA database linking suspects to unsolved crimes.

Colorado prosecutors hailed the Supreme Court ruling, saying that it will help Colorado and other states solve unsolved crimes and even prevent future crimes from happening. While there is support for the ruling, other groups, including the ACLU, are opposed to collecting DNA after an arrest.

Opponents of the ruling, which include four Supreme Court justices, say that taking DNA after an arrest before the suspect is convicted of the crime may be an invasive practice by police and could result in innocent people being subjected to unlawful search and seizure.

Regardless of the support or opposition to the ruling, Colorado will continue to collect DNA from people arrested for felony crimes so individuals arrested should be aware of their rights and contact a criminal defense attorney if their DNA is collected.

Source: Denver Post, "Supreme Court affirms Colorado DNA collection laws," Sadie Gurman, June 3, 2013

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