Today, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County Police Department, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement in response to the Maryland Court of Appeals Decision in Alonzo King v. State.
In a 5-2 decision yesterday, Maryland’s highest court overturned a home invasion rape conviction, while simultaneously delivering a major blow to law enforcement throughout the State of Maryland. The Court struck down a provision of the Maryland DNA Collection Act which allowed for the taking of DNA from individuals arrested for crimes of violence and burglary. Under this Act, DNA collection is routinely accomplished by rubbing a cotton swab on the inside cheek of a person arrested for only the most serious crimes.
Since the law was enacted in 2009, there have been 1,325 DNA hits statewide that have solved previously open criminal investigations; 190 of these have been from DNA samples that were taken upon arrest as opposed to the samples taken upon conviction. In Montgomery County alone, there have been 106 hits that have solved cases, including 23 based upon samples taken upon arrest. Many of these hits were for burglaries. There were over 3,000 burglaries in Montgomery County last year alone. Because police have collected post-conviction samples in serious cases since 1994, there are many more hits related to those samples. The goal was to use this provision to increase the number of post-arrest hits that would subsequently lead to case closures.
This provision can also prevent individuals from being wrongly accused. Just this month in our county, this provision enabled law enforcement to exonerate a criminal suspect.
In recognizing that this ruling is a setback to public safety, Montgomery County Department of Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said, “These DNA hits enable law enforcement to apprehend repeat offenders that prey upon our citizens thereby making our communities safer for everyone.”
In reacting to the Court’s ruling, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, “I reject the rationale of the majority opinion and believe that the dissenting opinion accurately captures the state of constitutional law in the United States. The taking of a cheek swab is no more of an infringement of a person’s fourth amendment right to privacy than the taking of fingerprints, which is a routine booking procedure done hundreds of times daily across the State of Maryland.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin noted that yesterday’s ruling will enable a convicted rapist to go free. He pointed out that, “many of the arguments made by the court yesterday were used almost a century ago against the taking of fingerprints which is now routinely accepted.”
Chief Manger, Sheriff Popkin and State’s Attorney McCarthy urge Attorney General Douglas Gansler to seek a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States to hopefully have this ruling overturned.