In what’s been hailed as a “resounding victory for law enforcement,” a sharply divided Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling when it decided Monday that police can collect DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes.

“DNA identification of arrestees is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion. “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

The case made for strange bedfellows, as ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia was joined in his scathing dissent by three of the court’s liberal justices. Scalia argued that the case paves the way for increased DNA testing, which he says violates the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches.

“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Scalia wrote. “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA whenever you fly on an airplane.”

The Hill:

The majority upheld a Maryland law allowing police to take DNA swabs from people who are charged with violent crimes, as long as they have probable cause for an arrest.

The case involves Alonzo King, who was arrested in 2009 on charges of first-degree assault. Police took a DNA sample and matched his DNA to an unsolved rape. King was tried and convicted in the rape but sued to have the DNA evidence suppressed.

He said taking a DNA swab without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Read more

The case is Maryland v. King. The opinion can be read here.

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Wait, before you go…

If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.

Support Truthdig