Should police should be allowed to collect and analyze “inadvertently shed” DNA without a warrant or consent, such as swabbing cells from a drinking glass or a chair? That’s the question in Raynor v. State of Maryland, where the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled this sort of DNA collection did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In an amicus brief, EFF has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rehear this troubling case.
Glenn Raynor’s genetic material was collected and tested without his knowledge or consent after he agreed to an interview at a police station as part of a criminal investigation. The police didn’t have probable cause to arrest Raynor, and he refused to provide a DNA sample. After he left the station, police swabbed the armrest of the chair where he had been sitting to collect his skin cells without his knowledge. The police then extracted a DNA profile from the cells and used it to connect him to the crime. In a 4-3 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals found the collection lawful, and Raynor is now seeking certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our amicus brief argues that genetic material contains a vast amount of personal information that should receive the full protection of the Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures. DNA can reveal sensitive personal health information and can allow police to identify a person’s relatives, turning family members “genetic informants” on each other. Some researchers have also postulated that DNA can determine race, sexual orientation, intelligence, and even political predispositions. The sophistication and speed of DNA analysis technology is advancing exponentially as the costs of the technology drop. These advances, EFF argues, raise significant questions for privacy and civil liberties.
Unfortunately, in March 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision.