Pennsylvania considers broadening DNA collection in response to Supreme Court decision

Recently, The United States Supreme Court decided the case of MARYLAND, PETITIONER v. ALONZO JAY KING, JR., No. 12–207 (June 3, 2013).  The opinion, delivered by Justice Kennedy, opined that “a gentle rub along the inside of the cheek” constitutes a reasonable search much like fingerprinting and photographing.  The matter arose out of Maryland where the lower court had originally determined that the DNA swab was an unlawful seizure resulting from an unreasonable search of the Defendant’s person and had suppressed the evidence therefore setting aside the conviction.

The search in this case was based on a Maryland DNA Collection Act that allows a DNA sample of all arrestees charged with serious crimes by a buccal swab applied to the inside of the accused cheeks.  Presently, there is no Pennsylvania equivalent, however, recent legislation may bring this type of collection and cataloging of DNA evidence to Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 150 was introduced to “Modernize and Reform the Administration, Application and Use of the Pennsylvania State DNA Database, and appears to utilize much of the holding in Maryland v. King, Jr., as a basis to allow DNA swabs, which “like fingerprinting and photographing, [are] a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment legitimate booking procedure”

The current Pennsylvania law related to DNA collection and preservation applies to only certain offenses after conviction.  This modification greatly expands the offenses which will qualify, and allows the DNA collection and preservation upon accusation and arrest, without regard to the outcome of the criminal case.


Maryland v. King

SB 150