The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime, and see if the DNA matches any samples from unsolved crimes in a national database.
The 5-to-4 decision split the court’s conservative and liberal blocs, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia authoring a fiery dissent. Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA testing of arrestees.
The court’s ruling came in the case of Alonzo King, arrested in Maryland for menacing a crowd with a gun in 2009. Police took a DNA swab from his cheek and sent the DNA to a national database, where it showed a match to a rape six years earlier. King was subsequently tried for and convicted of the rape, but the conviction was thrown out on grounds that there was no warrant and no individualized suspicion that justified taking the DNA sample.