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DNA sampling for criminal suspects approved by US Supreme Court

When it comes to sex crimes, DNA testing and evidence is absolutely vital to the investigation process. Law enforcement must still abide by the processes to obtain DNA samples from suspects; but it is inherent to the conversation. Given the very serious nature of sex crimes, this is both a curse and a blessing for everyone involved. DNA evidence can eliminate certain suspects from the equation, while also giving the victim of the terrible crime the security in knowing the right person was caught.

On the other hand though, DNA sampling is another way in which a suspect can have his or her rights obstructed. Maybe law enforcement did not appropriately go through the approval process for such testing; or maybe the testing facility botched the DNA sample, leading to a false positive. DNA sampling can be extremely accurate; but it can also be a legal nightmare for some individuals.

This is the backdrop for a major decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled yesterday that it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment (and, thus, not an illegal search) for law enforcement to take a DNA sample from a criminal suspect. The ruling was made in regards to a case where a man was arrested on assault charges. His DNA was taken and found to be a match for an unsolved rape case. The ruling means he will be charged for the rape; and it establishes a national precedent that makes DNA sampling part of the basic framework of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Now, it is important to note this is a victory for suspects and convicted criminals just as it is a victory for law enforcement. Many exonerations could come from DNA sampling, in addition to clearing the names of people suspected of committing a crime.

Still, as we outlined above, it can be murky waters. This ruling only further emphasizes the need for legal representation when faced with a criminal defense matter.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Supreme Court allows police to take DNA from criminal suspects," David G. Savage, June 3, 2013

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