Maryland Court of Appeals Rules on Maryland DNA Collection Law

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Maryland Court of Appeals Rules on Maryland DNA Collection Law

4/30/2012

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In January 2009, the Maryland Legislature enacted a critical public safety program requiring persons charged with committing crimes of violence, burglaries and rapes to provide a DNA sample during arrest processing.The DNA is collected by gently rubbing a sterile cotton swab on the inside of the offender’s mouth to obtain skin cells.The swab is then sent to the Maryland State Police Crime Laboratory and held until a judge determines whether or not probable cause existed for the arrest.

Once the determination is made that probable cause for the arrest did exist, the swab is processed and a limited DNA profile of the offender is generated.The DNA profile is submitted into the FBI Combined DNA Index System (CODIS database.The sample may be used to verify the arrestee’s identity and/or checked against DNA evidence collected from serious, unsolved cases in attempts to identify the perpetrators of those crimes.

Recently, Maryland’s highest court ruled in a split decision against the law on the basis the search is too invasive and, therefore, unconstitutional.Two Justices dissented against the majority opinion insisting the public’s and the victim’s interests in solving violent crimes outweigh the right of a defendant not to have his/her cheek swabbed.Without the intervention of the United States Supreme Court, yesterday’s ruling is the prevailing law in Maryland and will eliminate a vital tool used to quickly identify dangerous offenders who commit violent crimes and prey upon our communities.

Since 2007, the DNA samples collected from convicted offenders have resulted in 1,135 hits on criminal cases resulting in 397 arrests, 211 convictions, 58 pending trials and the closure of 852 open criminal cases.In addition, since 2007, DNA samples collected from charged offenders have resulted in 190 hits on open criminal cases, 65 arrests, 34 convictions, 12 pending trials and the closure of 123 criminal cases.

DNA technology is a vital mechanism which can be used to identify criminals and solve cases quickly, thus enhancing law enforcement’s ability to provide safe and sustainable communities.A great deal of thought went into the development of Maryland’s DNA Collection statute.The statute requires that an individual be arrested, charged with a qualifying crime and provided an initial arraignment prior to the DNA sample being entered into a database for identification and comparison.Experienced public safety professionals know the majority of violent crimes are committed by a select group of repeat offenders, offenders who have been known to prey upon citizens and commit additional crimes while awaiting trial.The collecting of DNA samples, along with fingerprinting and photographing during the arrestee’s booking process, makes sense.”(Timothy K. Cameron, Sheriff, St. Mary’s County, Maryland)

"As the Executive Director of Walden, the agency designated locally to provide Rape Crisis Services, I urge Attorney General Doug Gansler to appeal the court's decision.The victims in these cases are women who courageously undergo invasive medical exams to collect evidence after being sexually brutalized.The least we can do is to test defendants arrested for violent crimes, to collect DNA which has been proven to be effective in solving many of these horrendous crimes of rape as well as exonerating innocent defendants." (Dr. Kathleen O’Brien, Executive Director, Walden Sierra)

“DNA testing eliminates suspects, exonerates the falsely accused and prevents violent offenders from escaping apprehension.Sheriff Cameron and I are dedicated to solving crimes, prosecuting violent criminals, advocating for victim’s right, working with our community partners and identifying tools and practices to effectively improve the quality of life within St. Mary’s County.I know of no better way to improve the quality of life for a victim of a rape, or for the family of a murdered victim, than to catch, prosecute and convict the person responsible.”(Richard D, Fritz, States Attorney, St. Mary’s County, Maryland)

We have experienced great success here in southern, Maryland matching DNA collected from offenders, pre and post-conviction, with DNA evidence collected at crime scenes.The DNA matches have resulted in the solving three crimes, a burglary, bank robbery and sexual assault and the arrest of those responsible for committing those violent crimes.As the Sheriff of St. Mary’s County and in conjunction with St. Mary’s States Attorney Fritz, the Governor’s Office for Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCAP), and our victim advocacy groups within St. Mary’s County, we encourage Maryland’s Attorney General to appeal this ruling to the US Supreme Court in an effort to have this ruling overturned.”(Timothy K. Cameron, Sheriff)



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