In a recent decision, a divided US Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a Maryland law allowing authorities to take DNA samples from people who have been arrested. In doing so the justices rejected the claim that taking a mouth swab from a suspect’s mouth constituted an “unreasonable search” under the 4th amendment of the US Constitution. Once taken, DNA samples can be matched against a nationwide database and used to solve unresolved cases.
In January 2012 Illinois enacted a law similar to the Maryland law. Authorities had been waiting for the outcome of the Maryland case before implementing any procedural changes. Under this new law defendants can be swabbed for their DNA after they have been indicted by a grand jury or after probable cause for their charges has been found at a preliminary hearing. Prior to this new law police were only allowed to take DNA samples from defendants who had been found guilty or who gave their consent.
Following the decision by the Court, authorities in Illinois are preparing the implement the new Illinois law for the first time. Authorities at the Cook County Sherriff’s have stated they will begin taking samples as early as July for jail inmates charged with murder, home invasion and certain sexual offenses.
The author, Joe Pioletti, is an attorney with Pioletti Pioletti & Nichols in Eureka, IL 309-467-3213.