Maryland High Court Again Addresses DNA Testing Case

Earlier this year, this blog discussed the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of Maryland v. King, wherein the Court was called upon to determine the constitutionality of the Maryland DNA Collection Act (“Act”), which allows state and local law enforcement authorities to collect DNA samples from individuals who have been arrested for certain crime such as offenses of violence.

In King, the defendant, Alonzo Jay King, Jr. was originally arrested on first and second-degree assault charges. Maryland police obtained a sample of King’s DNA, and logged it into Maryland’s DNA database, pursuant to the Act. King’s DNA sample was matched to that from an unsolved rape case and King was charged for that crime also. The trial court denied a motion to suppress the DNA evidence in the rape case, King was convicted of rape. On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and the State appealed.

In declaring the Act constitutional, the Supreme Court reasoned that DNA sampling was a means of identification similar to fingerprinting or photo lineups. The Court held that taking a DNA swab is a “legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” The Court remanded King’s case to the Maryland Court of Appeals for additional consideration on other issues.

In September 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals addressed two questions on remand: (1) whether the DNA collection was a violation of King’s rights under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights; and (2) whether it was improper for the trial court to shift the burden of proof to King to show the search and seizure was reasonable.

King contended that the Act permitted law enforcement to conduct general searches without the reasonable suspicion normally needed to validate such a search and seizure. King claimed that searches conducted under the authority of the Act were a violation of Article 26, which outlaws general warrants and warrants not supported oath or affirmation regarding the search to be conducted.

The Court of Appeals overruled King’s objection, holding Article 26 does not offer any greater protection than the Fourth Amendment, and, even if it did, suppression of evidence has never been held to be a remedy for a violation of Article 26.

King also challenged the finding of the trial court that the State had followed the requirements for DNA collection, thereby improperly shifting the burden of proof to King. The Court of Appeals again overruled King’s objection, stating that King had failed to present prima facie evidence that the State had not complied with the Act. The Court further held that, even if King had presented sufficient evidence to show that the State had failed to comply with the Act, suppression of evidence is not an appropriate remedy for a statutory violation.

The knowledgeable attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience defending individuals that have been charged with crimes, including cases involving DNA evidence. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.