TCP has formed a new committee to explore best practices for DNA collection by law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. In June, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Maryland v. King, which held that a Maryland statute authorizing the collection of DNA samples from those arrested for certain felonies did not violate Fourth Amendment protections. While this case establishes a constitutional baseline for the practice, it also leaves a host of questions unanswered.
The Maryland law that the Court upheld includes significant procedural protections: a DNA sample is collected only upon formal charging, and only for certain violent or property felonies. It may only be used for identification purposes, and the record is expunged if no conviction is reached. Many jurisdictions across the country that collect DNA samples lack similar safeguards. We are pleased that an eminent and diverse group of experts, the Committee on DNA Collection, will survey the collection and storage policies and practices that jurisdictions currently have in place or are contemplating, identify the privacy and civil liberties concerns they raise, and fashion policy recommendations to better ensure the transparency and security of collection programs whenever government agencies choose to deploy this powerful law enforcement tool. We are grateful to the law firm of Jones Day, and to our board member Lawrence Rosenberg, a partner at the firm, for providing legal guidance and support for the Committee’s work.