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Supreme Court Says Police Can Take DNA Swabs From Arrestees

WASHINGTON (WJZ) -- Landmark decision. The Supreme Court rules to allow Maryland to continue taking DNA samples from people arrested for violent crimes--before they're convicted.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversial ruling.

Supporters say the Supreme Court's decision could help crack more cold cases that may have never been solved. Opponents say it's a violation of privacy.

In a new ruling from a sharply divided Supreme Court, police in Maryland may continue to collect DNA from suspects in serious crimes.

"It's just incredible after all these years to see this outcome," said Laura Neuman.

For Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman, the ruling is personal. In 1983, she was raped in her apartment. Her attacker was caught 19 years later.

She believes DNA evidence could take criminals off the streets before they strike again.

"Rapists tend to be repeat offenders, and so the opportunity to catch them years earlier, earlier in their criminal career, is just beyond words," Neuman said.

Neuman's attacker, who's linked to 14 other rapes, was caught through a fingerprint.

"Some criminals leave fingerprints at the scene of a crime, some criminals leave DNA at the scene of a crime. Having both tools in the law enforcement arsenal is essential," said Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler.

But opponents of the Maryland law say it overextends police powers and violates privacy rights.

ACLU attorney David Rocah calls the ruling disturbing.

"What this statute says is that we can be searched without any suspicion of having committed any offense whatsoever, as long as we're merely arrested for something else," he said.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia says, "Because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason."

Twenty-eight states currently allow DNA samples at the time of an arrest.

Under state law, if a suspect is not convicted, their DNA sample must be destroyed.

At the center of the Supreme Court case--a Wicomico County man who was convicted in a 2003 rape after his DNA was taken in 2009 during an unrelated arrest.

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