US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts [official profile] on Monday renewed his temporary stay [order, PDF] on a Maryland Court of Appeals [official website] ruling that police could not collect DNA from individuals arrested for violent crimes and burglaries. The state court ruling effectively bars the collection of genetic material from criminal suspects without a warrant under Maryland's DNA Collection Act [text, PDF]. Roberts found that the ruling would disable Maryland from employing a valuable law enforcement tool for the several months the Supreme Court would take to decide whether or not to hear an appeal in the case:
Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population. Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly-enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm. ... Accordingly, the judgment and mandate below are hereby stayed pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari.The state appeals court struck down [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the DNA collection law in April, finding a violation of arrestees' Fourth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] rights to privacy. Roberts' stay will terminate automatically either upon the Court's refusal to grant certiorari or on its ruling on the case if certiorari is granted.
Lower courts have been split on this issue. In February the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that buccal mouth swabs may be used to extract DNA samples from any adult arrested or charged with a felony in California, thereby upholding a 2004 voter-enacted provision [Proposition 69 materials] of the DNA and Forensic Identification Database and Data Bank Act of 1998 [text]. It also reversed a decision [JURIST report] issued last August by a three-judge panel for the California First District Court of Appeals [official website] holding that DNA samples cannot be taken broadly from any adult arrested or charged with a felony. In January the Minnesota Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a state law requiring the collection of DNA samples by people convicted of crimes does not violate the Fourth Amendment.