March 27, 2023

Supreme Court expands DNA collection

Anyone convicted of a felony crime in America must give a DNA sample to the State. In Washington individuals convicted of certain gross misdemeanors (e.g. Harassment, Stalking, etc..) must also give a DNA sample. On June 3, the U.S. Supreme Court in ruled that when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold a suspect for a serious offense and bring him 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. As Justice Scalia pointed out in a scathing dissent, anyone convicted of a felony must already give DNA, so the ruling really only affects those arrested but not convicted (e.g. the innocent). DNA evidence involves expert witnesses which is why a Washington Rape case I had was impacted by Hurricane Katrina (Reliagene lab is in New Orleans). During a 2012 trial a significant point in my cross-examination of police officers was their failure to collect DNA in a case. The State will often tell jurors, “this isn’t CSI” but technology continues to advance and you should consider hiring a lawyer like W. Todd Pascoe who’s experienced handling DNA cases. A list of most serious offenses in Washington can be found at RCW 9.94A.030 and includes every Class A felony and violent class B felonies such as Assault in the Second Degree and Robbery in the Second Degree. For more information on the Supreme Court’s upholding of a Rape conviction where the defendant received life imprisonment without parole because the State collected his DNA see the following web articles (note: the last is the actual Supreme Court opinion)