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Law enforcement applaud ruling on DNA swabbing

By JOLEEN FERRIS

The Supreme Court has ruled that is now legal for law enforcement to take the DNA of people arrested, even though they have not yet been convicted of a crime.

The decision was a big victory to police and victim rights groups in the fight over how and when your DNA can be used, with the justices being nearly split down the middle. While the justices approving believe they are solidifying DNA as the fingerprint of the 21st Century, there is concern over whether or not the decision violates the Fourth Amendment while police and prosecutors say they are happy for what the ruling means for them.

Under the new ruling, when someone is arrested, an oral DNA swab will become a routine part of the booking process for serious crimes.

New York State was not one of the 26 states that allowed DNA swabbing for serious arrests, only upon conviction. That means police could now be going through the swabbing process on a weekly, if not sometimes daily basis. Law enforcement say they are confident the ruling will help them close some old cases, but add that it does not mean a stroke of a computer and a DNA hit will take the place of old-fashioned police work.

"It's identification, like your fingerprints, like your photograph, etc," said Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter. "So it can be used to identify a person. It doesn't necessarily mean they committed a crime, but it could put them in a certain location."

"For us, it means we may be able to resolve and solve a lot of cold cases that we have involving both homicides and rapes," Utica Police Chief Mark Williams said.

It is still unclear at this time as to what constitutes a serious crime. The Supreme Court ruling says those arrested for serious crimes can be swabbed upon arrest, but the states may have to define that.

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