Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

The US Supreme Court to Hear Landmark DNA Evidence Case

The Verdict could have national impact on when law enforcement can collect DNA evidence from suspects.

On November 9, 2012, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a criminal DNA testing case, Maryland v. King (12-207), which could result in nation-wide impacts. The defendant’s DNA samples were collected immediately following his arrest. He was subsequently convicted of rape. King’s Attorney attempted to suppress the DNA evidence, on the grounds that it was taken unconstitutionally. The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed, and overturned King’s conviction. They ruled that suspects under arrest but not convicted, have more rights than convicted felons; and that DNA testing was more invasive than standard finger print evidence.
The State of Maryland disagreed, and appealed to the US Supreme Court to hear the case. The case is expected to be heard by the high court in June 2013.

DNA testing has been the subject of much controversy. Objection to the DNA testing of non-convicted suspects is that it is in violation of a person’s 4th Amendment Constitutional Right against unlawful search and seizures.

All states currently use DNA testing as an admissible investigative tool. Currently it is lawful in most states, including Arizona, to collect report and distribute DNA results for convicted felons. However, not all states allow collection, analysis, reporting, distributing, and use of DNA testing as evidence against first time criminal offenders, with no felony convictions.

DNA Testing Laws in Arizona

Arizona allows collection, reporting and distribution of DNA evidence from prison inmates and convicted felons. Criminal DNA samples are maintained by in a forensic data base by authorized Law enforcement agencies, and indexed by the FBI.
However, in recent years, Arizona also passed legislation allowing DNA to be collected from suspects who were arrested, but not convicted of a felony in specific situations.
Under Arizona Law A.R.S. 13-610 DNA may be collected from a suspect if they were arrested for serious, violent, and dangerous felony offenses on involving a victim.

The law allows for DNA testing in situations where the suspect was arrested for a criminal offense specified by law, even if they were not convicted of the crime. Examples of these offenses include but are not limited to sexual offenses and assault; burglary in the first or second degree; homicide; and other dangerous offenses involving victims.


Criminal Defense for Charges involving DNA cases

Anyone arrested for a serious or dangerous crime, should always consult a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty. Felony convictions for these types of crimes, will result in years to life in prison, or even expose a defendant to the death penalty. A defendant should always invoke their right to retain qualified legal representation to defend their rights and charges. If DNA evidence was collected unlawfully it may lead to suppression of the evidence in favor of the defendant. If DNA evidence does not lead to a match of the suspect arrested, the charges may be dismissed or lead to a “not-guilty” verdict in a jury trial. The lawfulness or validity of DNA evidence should always be argued by a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Additional Resources:

Arizona State Legislature

Arizona State Bar – Jury Instructions for Evidence

United States Supreme Court – Maryland v. King

US Supreme Court Orders – Petition Granted Maryland V. King, Alonzo J. (12-207)

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Law Office of James Novak
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