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Md. appeals court declines to review DNA ruling

Friday - 5/18/2012, 5:41pm  ET

Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland Court of Appeals on Friday denied a request to reconsider a ruling that effectively barred police from collecting DNA samples from people arrested on charges of committing a violent crime or attempting to commit one.

That means Attorney General Douglas Gansler can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he said in an interview Friday that he plans to pursue an appeal. The attorney general also said he was optimistic an appeal could succeed, if the high court decides to take the case. Gansler cited the high public safety benefit of the law as a reason why he believed the court could decide to hear the case.

It involves Alonzo King Jr., who was found guilty of a 2003 rape in Salisbury. King's DNA was taken after he had been arrested in 2009 on assault charges.

Opponents argue that taking a sample before someone is convicted violates the constitutional protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Supporters say the samples contribute to a database that helps law enforcement.

State officials suspended such collections following the April 24 ruling.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruling last month mirrored a decision in Minnesota. Maryland's highest court concluded that probable cause to make an arrest does not justify taking a biological specimen without a search warrant. There was a dissenting opinion backed by two judges who support the law.

Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed for the law in 2008. He contends it protects residents and helps solve crimes.

Both O'Malley and Gansler, who are both Democrats, point to federal courts that have supported laws like Maryland's.

In February, a divided federal appeals court ruled that California law enforcement officials can keep collecting DNA samples from people arrested for felonies. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said law enforcement's interest in solving cold cases, identifying suspects and even exonerating the wrongly accused outweigh any privacy concerns.

In July, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with federal prosecutors who appealed a judge's ruling that it was an unconstitutional invasion of privacy to routinely collect DNA samples from defendants who had yet to be convicted.

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