License, Registration, Cheek Swab: DNA Testing and the Divided Court
39 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2013 Last revised: 3 Apr 2015
Date Written: September 16, 2013
Maryland v. King looks on its face like just another Fourth Amendment dispute — with civil libertarians on one side and law enforcement on the other — and garnered no special attention. But King is no ordinary Fourth Amendment case. At first glance, King simply upheld the Fourth Amendment constitutionality of a state statute authorizing the collection of DNA from arrestees. But the opinion represents a watershed moment in the evolution of Fourth Amendment doctrine and an important signal for the future of biotechnologies and policing. This Comment places King into context from three different vantage points, each one step removed. First, this Comment reads between the lines of the majority opinion, in light of the greater constellation of facts and claims placed before the Court, to underscore the significance of what was not said about the constitutionality of arrestee DNA collection. It next considers King as it exemplifies the judicial response to forensic DNA typing more generally, and imagines its precedential value in future biometric cases. Finally, the Comment closes by situating King in the broader landscape of the Court’s recent Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and analyzing its insights for the evolution of the field as a whole.
Keywords: DNA, Criminal Justice, Criminal Procedure, Biotechnology, Fourth Amendment
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