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Supreme Court to decide on DNA sampling of arrestees

A Supreme Court case was argued Tuesday that could impact the entire country, with definite effects in Santa Barbara County. The case Maryland vs. Alonzo King brings up the question of whether police have the right to take genetic information from people who have only been arrested, but not yet convicted of a crime.

The justices seemed torn on the issue. One of the justices said it was “one of the most important criminal procedure cases they’ve heard in decades.” More than half the country, including California, take samples of people arrested for felonies long before they’re proven innocent or guilty. The sample is then entered into a statewide and national database that is used to help crack cold cases.

Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney, Ben Ladinig, says DNA cheek swabs are a very important resource. In fact, if police hadn’t taken a DNA sample upon the felony arrest of Joshua Packer, the Faria Beach murder case would likely remain unresolved. Packer is the 23-year old accused of fatally stabbing Brock and Davina Husted and their unborn child in their Faria Beach home in May 2009.

But Santa Barbara’s public defender tells NewsChannel 3 that the government taking away the most personal possession of a citizen, is a direct violation of privacy. He adds that if someone is convicted of a crime, that’s different, but often times arrests are falsely made, or by mistake. He does not believe it’s right for the government to take your DNA sample and use it for other purposes.

The Supreme Court is set to make a decision in the next few months.

NewsChannel 3 Reporter Shirin Rajaee reports.

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