By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun
10:14 AM EDT, May 18, 2012
Maryland's highest court rejected a request to reconsider an April ruling that blocks state law enforcement from collecting DNA samples when a suspect is arrested, court officials said Friday.
The decision puts the case on track for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. States and federal courts are split over whether taking a DNA sample before a suspect is convicted violates a person's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Law enforcement agencies announced last month that they would halt the practice for the time being.
The law, which took effect in January 2009, allows police to take the samples when a person is arrested for a violent crime, a burglary or the attempt to commit a violent crime or a burglary. Police have had the authority to take DNA samples from convicted criminals since 1994.
The samples are entered into a database that allows police to connect them to past crimes they may have committed. The database contains nearly 16,000 samples, and what will happen to that genetic information is unclear.
Supporters say taking the samples is a valuable tool for law enforcement that has led to 65 arrests and 34 convictions since the General Assembly passed the law in 2008.
State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler asked on May 1 for the high court to reconsider its ruling. The court met in a closed-door conference Thursday.
"All this ruling does is allow people to get away with very, very serious crimes," Gansler said at the time. "The reasoning by the Court of Appeals doesn't make a whole lot of sense to most people."
Gansler said that if the Court of Appeals denied the motion to reconsider the 5-2 ruling, he would seek intervention by the Supreme Court.
The case before the court involves the conviction of Alonzo Jay King Jr., who was found guilty of a 2003 rape of a 53-year-old woman in Salisbury. King's DNA was taken after he had been arrested in 2009 on unrelated assault charges.
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