Although such pretrial hits to unrelated crimes are rarely made with lightning speed, the Court suggested that this situation could change (just as it did with the introduction of computerized fingerprint matching). The majority wrote that:
[T]he FBI has already begun testing devices that will enable police to process the DNA of arrestees within 90 minutes. ... . An assessment and understanding of the reasonableness of this minimally invasive search of a person detained for a serious crime should take account of these technical advances. ... New technology will only further improve its speed and therefore its effectiveness.2/Yesterday, Florida’s Space Coast Daily newspaper announced a “first-ever application of rapid DNA technology.”3/ “In January 2014,” police in the city of Palm Bay, south of Melbourne, “began processing samples from active cases” with IntegenX’s RapidHIT 200 device for producing STR profiles in about 90 minutes. They struck paydirt in the investigation of a September 2013 home burglary that netted “approximately $30,000 worth of property including firearms, electronic equipment, computers, TV’s, military equipment including a bulletproof vest, clothing, several guitars and even the cable box.”
Despite the "first-ever" buzz, other localities are using the same technology operationally. In South Carolina, for example, it fingered "one of three suspects in a string of burglaries in northeast Richland County from December 2013 to February 2014."4/
Does this mean that the Court’s prediction has come true, that arrestee DNA is being processed within a two-hour window? Hardly. The Palm Bay case concerned an individual who already had been “arrested for the crime based on witness statements and other evidence. A blood sample taken from the scene was run through the RapidHIT 200 which yielded a profile that matched the same suspect who had been arrested and charged with the crime.” This is not a case in which an automated, rapid system for DNA profiling was applied to acquire an arrestee profile for checking against a DNA database for unsolved crimes, as the King Court contemplated.
Nevertheless, when validated, the rapid processing power certainly can be applied to arrestee samples. Those are easier to analyze than are the often messier crime-scene samples that the Palm Bay police are profiling with the technology. The Court’s prediction may seem space age, but it is not particularly futuristic.
Indeed, the article goes on to suggest that by uploading the RapidHIT profiles into a local database of “Palm Bay and several local agencies, including Melbourne, West Melbourne and Cocoa Police,” police in the region are in a position to identify “suspects who cross jurisdictions to commit their crimes.” Of course, this is what Florida’s SDIS (State DNA Index System) does. Presumably, the objective of these police agencies is to do it more nimbly and quickly. Yet, that, in turn, creates alarms about “rogue databases” operating outside a statutory framework.
1. 133 S.Ct. 1958 (2013).
2. Id. at 1977.
3. Palm Bay Police Nail Crooks With DNA Evidence, Space Coast Daily, Feb. 25, 2014, http://spacecoastdaily.com/2014/02/palm-bay-police-nail-crooks-with-dna-evidence/.
4. Cassie Cope, Richland Sheriff’s Department’s New Machine Analyzes DNA in 90 Minutes, State (S.Car.), Feb. 27, 2014, http://www.thestate.com/2014/02/27/3295469/richland-sheriffs-departments.html#storylink=cpy.
Previous Postings on the Opinions in Maryland v. King
- Maryland v. King No. 1: Quick Thoughts, June 3, 2013
- Maryland v. King No. 2: Was There a Search?, June 7, 2013
- Maryland v. King: Interlude, June 9, 2013
- Maryland v. King No. 3: Bertillonage as Precedent, June 12, 2013
- Maryland v. King: A Digression on Ellipses, Actual Innocence, and Dr. Mengele, June 13, 2013
- Maryland v. King: “Quite a Worldview”, June 15, 2013
- Maryland v. King: The Tenth Justice (Stevens) Votes, June 15, 2013
- Maryland v. King: When Being Smart and Witty Is Not Enough, Nov. 27, 2013
- Maryland v. King: The Dissent's Ten Second Rule, Nov. 29, 2013