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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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United States Supreme Court Upholds DNA Collection


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :    Monday, June 03, 2013
CONTACT:  Sara Rabern (605)773-3215   

United States Supreme Court Upholds DNA Collection 

PIERRE, S.D  -   Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that a divided United States Supreme Court has upheld DNA collection from individuals arrested for serious crimes. In December 2012, because South Dakota’s law was similar to the Maryland procedure being challenged, South Dakota joined several states supporting Maryland in a capacity as amicus curiae, or friend of the Court. The Court held that the 4th Amendment does not prohibit the collection and analysis of a DNA sample from persons arrested, but not yet convicted, on felony charges.

“DNA testing in South Dakota has proven to be an effective crime solving tool and a way to exonerate individuals wrongly suspected of criminal activity,” said Jackley. “Today’s decision supports South Dakota’s DNA testing procedure that finds an important balance between protecting the public and limiting its use and purpose to solving serious crimes.”

In 2003, a man concealing his face and armed with a gun broke into a woman’s house in Salisbury, Maryland and raped her. The police were unable to identify or apprehend the assailant based on any detailed description or other evidence, but they did obtain from a victim a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA.  In 2009, Alonzo King was arrested in Wicomico County, Maryland, and charged with first- and second-degree assault for menacing a group of people with a shotgun. As part of a routine booking procedure for serious offenses, his DNA sample was taken by applying a cotton swab to the inside of his cheeks. The DNA was found to match the DNA taken from the Salibury rape victim. King was tried and convicted for the rape.

The Supreme Court opined that “DNA identification of arrestees is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure. When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Under South Dakota law individuals arrested for felonies, crimes of violence and sex offenses are required to provide a DNA sample at their booking. The South Dakota legislature has limited the permissible uses of the DNA analysis to law enforcement purposes that include crime solving and identification of human remains and missing persons. Furthermore, an individual may request court expungement of the DNA sample for certain instances including when there isn’t a conviction.

The South Dakota Forensic Laboratory currently maintains 44,808 DNA samples. Since 2005, when the law was expanded to include convicted felons, the DNA system has to some degree assisted with 260 investigations. This law has proven to be successful in aiding murder and sex offense investigations here in South Dakota. Here are a few examples:

2001-Blue Mound State Park Minnesota homicide case- Park attendant found murdered with very little evidence and no witnesses. South Dakota Forensic Lab hit on DNA match in 2007. The suspect at that time was incarcerated at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and was scheduled to be released soon. The individual was convicted of murder.

2012-Mellette County burglary case- Homeowner arrived home and disrupted a burglary in progress. The homeowner was shot in the thigh with one of his own guns that the defendants had stolen. A cigarette butt found at the scene had a mixture of DNA that matched two individuals who were in the DNA database. These two individuals were convicted for these crimes.