Maryland lawmakers want DNA collection to resume

A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a state law that allows police to collect DNA samples from those arrested for violent crimes and some burglaries. 

The lawmakers, led by Montgomery County Del. Sam Arora (D), said the law is a critical tool for law enforcement, has helped put rapists and other criminals behind bars and should be reinstated. Eighteen others signed on to the amicus brief. Attorney General Doug Gansler has also asked the court to uphold the state law.

The 2008 DNA collection law was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals in April, when judges agreed with civil liberties groups that have argued that people are presumed innocent at the time of arrest.

Also, they say, only a tiny fraction of the DNA collections lead to arrests. In 2011, more than 10,000 samples were collected, but only 19 people were arrested and even fewer were convicted.

Supporters of the law point to Alonzo Jay King Jr., a man who was arrested in 2009 on assault charges just after the new law took effect. His DNA was collected, run though a database and led to his conviction in a 2003 unsolved rape.

There is reason to believe the U.S. Supreme Court is receptive to the lawmakers' point of view. In late July, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called DNA collection "a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes" and said there was a "fair prospect" that the high court would overturn Maryland's Court of Appeals.

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