Baltimore Co. Police to Halt DNA Collections of Suspects
The immediate shift in policy comes just days after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the practice was unconstitutional.
Baltimore County police said they have, effective immediately, stopped collecting DNA samples from suspects arrested and charged with certain violent crimes.
The policy switch comes after Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that part of a state law that allows law enforcement to collect DNA from anyone arrested for a crime of violence is unconstitutional. The case overturned a rape conviction and life sentence.
The court ruled in a 5-2 vote that Wicomico County police violated Fourth Amendment rights, restricting unreasonable searches, when Alonzo J. King Jr. was arrested in 2009 and police took a sample of his DNA, according to court documents.
Despite the move by the Baltimore County police, Chief James Johnson, along with many other state law enforcement agencies, is hopeful the court’s decision will eventually be turned over on appeal.
“Our job is public safety, and DNA collection is an invaluable tool for helping us protect citizens from criminals,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have serious concerns about this ruling.”
According to a Baltimore County news release, Johnson is still instructing officers to note the suspects’ eligibility to collect DNA on their arrest reports to make it easier to gather such samples in the future, should the ruling be reversed on appeal.
Johnson, the release continued, believes DNA collections from arrested suspects have led to many key arrests.
In 2010, according to the release, a 42-year-old man was convicted of a 2004 rape of a 13-year-old and a 2000 rape of a 14-year-old.
Police gained DNA evidence from that case in February 2009, when the man was arrested for the sexual assault of his 7- and 8-year-old female cousins, according to the release.
“We got this criminal off the streets for good,” Johnson said in a statement. “Without the DNA evidence, it’s possible that we would not have been able to do that.”