Supreme Court Will Not Review Ruling Upholding Federal Arrestee DNA Law

Mar 21, 2012, 17:17 ET from DNASaves

Mother of murder victim lauds decision

CARLSBAD, N.M., March 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a federal law requiring DNA collection for criminal arrests occurring under federal authority (US v. Mitchell).   In denying the petition for review, the Supreme Court allows the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to stand in which the court dismissed arguments that the federal law is unconstitutional.   The non-profit organization DNASaves, founded by parents of murder victim Katie Sepich, filed an amicus brief in Mitchell in support of the U.S. Justice Department's defense of the law and was gratified to learn that the lower court ruling will stand.  

"I am so pleased to know that the Third Circuit's well-reasoned and insightful ruling will continue to serve as a guide to other courts that may be called upon to weigh this important public safety issue," said Katie's mother, Jayann Sepich.  In late 2005, the Sepiches began a national campaign to pass Katie's Law in every state – to expand DNA databases to include DNA for felony arrests.  To date, 25 states have passed such laws.

"Katie's killer could have been caught shortly after her murder if his DNA had been taken for his next arrest.  But it wasn't, and three more years passed before we got justice."

The Third Circuit's landmark decision in US v. Mitchell provides a strong response to the failed arguments that taking a cheek swab from a person arrested with probable cause under legal authority is somehow an exceptional and unwarranted intrusion on privacy.  In its 2011 ruling, the Third Circuit concluded that, "a DNA profile is used solely as an accurate, unique, identifying marker—in other words, as fingerprints for the twenty-first century."

The Supreme Court's action is the third positive development in recent weeks for challenges to arrestee DNA laws.  In late February, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a challenge to California's state felony arrest DNA law (Haskell v. Harris) and a federal district court in Colorado similarly upheld a challenge to the federal arrestee DNA law (US v. Fricosu).  While additional challenges may be appealed to the Supreme Court in the future, Mitchell is currently the most precedential of any such case in the country.