The Fight over DNA Swabbing

June 6, 2013 Updated Jun 6, 2013 at 6:53 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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June 6, 2013 Updated Jun 6, 2013 at 6:53 PM EDT


BUFFALO (WKBW) The Supreme Court vote was 5 to 4 upholding the Maryland law allowing DNA samples to be taken from arrested individuals in "serious" crimes. There was strong disagreement within the members of the Court, as well as between advocates and opponents here in Western New York.

"I'm a prosecutor, so I think it's just terrific. I would hold a parade right down Main Street. Now I'm sure defense lawyers have a much different view of it," former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said.

"This is a substantial blow to civil liberties advocates, there is no denying that," criminal defense attorney Dominic Saraceno said.

Those DNA samples from "serious" crimes will become part of a database, similar to the existing one in New York State for those convicted of a felony, and would give police and prosecutors something to compare new samples to.

"It takes us into the 21st century and it just really greatly increases, almost geometrically, increases the odds of solving unsolved crimes," Clark said.

But for defense attorneys and those opposing the Supreme Court's ruling, it crosses a line that they say mug shots and fingerprints do not.

"I think it's a blatant violation of what's written in the Constitution, overstepping federal power. And that's our God-given rights in the 4th and 5 Amendments written in the Bill of Rights," opponent Rob Carl said.

And local feelings were about as varied as DNA itself.

"I believe they have the right to do this because you never know what it might uncover or help," one local resident said.

"If you get arrested for stealing a bike you shouldn't get DNA swabbed," another countered.

"Don't get arrested I guess," a third added.

The Maryland law currently calls for DNA swabs for "serious" crimes. Both Clark and Saraceno said there is the possibility that is expanded to minor and even all crimes into the future.