The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday let stand the conviction of a rapist in the Raynor v. State of Maryland case where prosecution rested on DNA swiped from the armrests of an interrogation-room chair. Glenn Raynor’s genetic material was collected and tested without his knowledge or consent after he agreed to an interview at a police station as part of a criminal investigation. The police didn’t have probable cause to arrest Raynor, and he refused to provide a DNA sample. After he left the station, police swabbed the armrest of the chair where he had been sitting to collect his skin cells without his knowledge. The police then extracted a DNA profile from the cells and used it to connect him to the crime.
The dissent on the Maryland Court of Appeals said a probable-cause warrant was needed and painted a grim picture of the future:
The Majority’s approval of such police procedure means, in essence, that a person desiring to keep her DNA profile private, must conduct her public affairs in a hermetically sealed hazmat suit…. The Majority’s holding means that a person can no longer vote, participate in a jury, or obtain a driver’s license, without opening up his genetic material for state collection and codification.
In urging the high court to review the case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote that “allowing police the limitless ability to collect and search genetic material will usher in a future where DNA may be collected from any person at any time, entered into and checked against DNA databases, and used to conduct pervasive surveillance.”
The EFF’s losing argument may be found at https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-supreme-court-fourth-amendment-covers-dna-collection.