Shellenberger: SCOTUS DNA Decision Won't Have Immediate Impact

Chief Justice John Roberts stays Maryland Court of Appeals ruling striking down the collection of DNA samples from people arrested for felonies.

UPDATED (6:21 p.m.)—Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said a Supreme Court order Wednesday will not result in the immediate resumption of collecting DNA samples from people arrested for certain crimes.

"I'm not prepared to tell county police to start collecting DNA from arrestees," Shellenberger said. "I think we need something a little more solid before we start changing procedures."

Chief Justice John Roberts' order stayed an April Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that barred law enforcement from collecting DNA samples from people arrested and charged with felonies.

The Court of Appeals made the 5-2 ruling in the case of Alonzo King who was arrested in 2009. Wicomico County collected King's DNA at the time of his arrest and later charged him in a 2003 rape, for which he was ultimately convicted.

Lawyers for King argued that the DNA swab violated their client's Fourth Amendment rights.

Baltimore County police almost immediately after the Court of Appeals ruling.

Roberts has given King's attorneys until July 25 to respond.

Shellenberger said he might revisit the issue of DNA collection by county police after that date.

"There's no sense in changing the policy and run the risk of having to reverse it if Chief Justice Roberts lifts the stay," Shellenberger said. "Right now we need continuity."

Baltimore County police are also watching the Supreme Court's actions closely.

Elise Armacost, a police spokeswoman, said Chief Jim Johnson was happy with the stay issued by Roberts but the department is not prepared to start collecting DNA samples.

"It's too soon," Armacost said. "We're evaluating the ruling to confirm that it means what it appears to mean."

Mike Fisher July 18, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I am all for DNA collecting of this nature. Maybe you solve some crimes that were previously unsolvable. Maybe you connect the felons with other crimes they committed. I don't see a huge problem with collecting DNA samples from felons, especially repeat felons. What harm is there, if any?
Buck Harmon July 18, 2012 at 10:57 PM
The harm comes with inaccuracies caused by human beings taking the samples and contaminating them....not to mention that the science has not been proven to be completely accurate....everyone used to think that fingerprints were foolproof but that has proven to be inaccurate as well.
John July 18, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Agreed. I think the rights of the victims should take priority over that of a felon. If DNA from an arrest in 2005 nailed him for a rape in 2003 then he should've not committed another crime, but these guys almost always are repeat offenders. Screw his rights!
John July 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Buck you sound like a defense lawyer.
Buck Harmon July 18, 2012 at 11:23 PM
If the accused is subject to a bad DNA sample ..the accused becomes a victim of the systems inaccuracies...unless it is completely fool proof it shouldn't be used...it's not..
John July 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Buck. If we use that criteria on anything that we want to do, then nothing will get done. Nothng is full proof. But I can bet that this felon that was found to have commited a rape in 2003 has an arrest record as long as my arm. Frankly, I no longer care about his rights. I'm more concerned about the rape victim and her rights, which always seem to take a backseat to the felon that committed yet another crime against society, and if he's out of jail has probably committed several more.
Joe Dolan July 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM
What if you are arrested, but are not a previous felon, and are found innocent of the charges? They have your DNA and can do what they please with it. There is plenty of time to take the DNA after a conviction.
Mike Pierce July 19, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Why would any inaccuracy matter, in a DNA test or a findrprint? If the police find a match, it just points them to the likely suspect. Further DNA tests could be done to verify the first one.
Sue July 19, 2012 at 01:53 AM
I say collect, collect, collect. Too many repeat offenders out there and too many of them getting a slap on the wrist. It's a sad society we live in now a days.
Lisa July 19, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Amen, Mike!!!
Lisa July 19, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Thank you Mike Pierce and John! "...right of the victims..." is there such a thing? I bet a lot of people would be thinking differently if it were their loved one that was beaten, stabbed, shot and paralyzed, raped, murdered...the list goes on and on. I would bet they would be singing a different tune. The American justice system is useless and basically sucks!
Lisa July 19, 2012 at 04:15 AM
You are right on target again John! I agree with you 100%. COLLECT!!!
Lorna D. Rudnikas July 19, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Since when, if DNA samples are retrieved and tested without contamination occurring in the process are they not considered to be accurate?
Mike Fisher July 19, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Personally, I'll take those chances. Take more than one sample if there are doubts of contamination. Hell, take 10 samples from 10 different body parts. Any inaccuracies are outweighed by the potential positives of solving more crimes and getting them off the books not to mention punishing the offenders and avenging the victims.
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 05:21 AM
The real problem comes from collecting DNA from those accused of crimes, not those convicted. I am all in favor of collecting DNA from those convicted of felonies. But if we start taking DNA from those merely accused by police of crimes, what is to stop police from picking people up off the streets and charging them just so they can get DNA? Come on folks, many of you are so willing to believe in conspiracy theories that are pretty far out but you can't believe police would falsely accuse someone of a crime in order to get DNA from the person?
Lyn July 19, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Collect..collect..collect!!! The pros out weigh the cons. There will always be human error because the entire system has human interaction. Unfortunately, there have been cases that wrongly accused people have been incarcerated. DNA or not it will continue to happen..however,the DNA at least gives a better chance at getting the right felons. As for police just trying to get random DNA from people..come on..be real..that is just paranoia..we all shed DNA daily..if they really wantes it for other puposes they could certainly find an easy way to get it.
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Lyn said "...we all shed DNA daily..if they [the police] really wantes it for other puposes they could certainly find an easy way to get it". Lyn, it doesn't work that way. Police have to have some reason to collect DNA or it is not allowed in a trial. If they have probable cause to collect a DNA sample, do you really think they have time to find all the suspects of crimes, follow them around and wait for them to flick a cigarette or something? Now, as far as police trying to get random DNA from people being paranoid, I have to it is not some wild conspiracy theory. If the police suspect someone of a crime, but can't find any hard evidence, what is stop them from hauling them in to jail on thrumped up charges, taking a DNA sample, and trying to match it to the evidence left at the real crime they are trying to solve?
nancy cook July 19, 2012 at 09:12 PM
We need evidence to connect criminals with crime. DNA is necessary and if we are unable to collect that just gives crime a helping hand and criminals a belief that they won't be caught.
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Nancy, what part of the U. S. Consitution says that people should be arrested and then evidence collected?
Buck Harmon July 19, 2012 at 09:47 PM
If we would issue every citizen a hand gun and a box of bullets crime would fall dramatically...and in a very short period of time....the solution is in the Second Amendment....think of the savings...
Buck Harmon July 19, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Key words Lorna..."without contamination"...
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Buck, if we issued every citizen a hand gun and a box of bullets, wouldn't that be arming the criminals even more? Me thinks crime would actually go up if everyone was issued a gun and box of bullets. Just thinking out loud here.
Buck Harmon July 19, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Na...criminals are the ones with the guns now....human beings would tend to rely on personal instinct rather than a broken system....something most have never tried...
Buck Harmon July 19, 2012 at 10:03 PM
All of my comments are just thinking out loud...I make no claims regarding accuracy...just thinking out loud...
kathleen barker July 19, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Buck, me too. I am not so opposed to people being allowed to carry guns. I am not there competely yet, but I am moving that way.
Buck Harmon July 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM
There are no periods with these decisions....


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