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Supreme Court Considers Legality of DNA Collection

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at 4:15 pm    

A case soon to come before the Supreme Court has far-reaching consequences for civil liberties and law enforcement methods in the United States. At issue is whether law enforcement agencies can legally require individuals who have been arrested, but not convicted, for a criminal offense to submit a DNA sample for testing. DNAThese samples would not necessarily be used for the case being investigated, but rather to check against databases of other crime scene investigations and determine whether the suspect had been involved in separate offenses.

Proponents of the law point to its effectiveness in the case which has come to the courts. In Maryland, Alonzo King was arrested for attempted assault, and when police checked his DNA profile against their database of crime scene evidence, they found that his DNA matched that found at the scene of a serious sexual assault. King was, therefore, convicted for this crime, as well as the more minor assault charge.

Opponents of the practice, including King’s lawyers, have argued that DNA testing of arrest suspects is a violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches. Furthermore, some claim that this overzealous DNA collection practice adds to evidence backlogs and impedes the ability of law enforcement agencies to effectively investigate criminal offenses in a timely manner.

The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching ramifications on defendants and criminal defense lawyers, regardless of how it is decided, as dozens of states have already put in place these types of laws and many more are considering them.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Changes to Class Action Lawsuits

Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 3:16 pm    

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court began considering making possible changes to the regulations governing class action lawsuits in the country. Specifically, the matter being discussed concerns personal injury attorneys and other parties possibly making intentionally low claims for damages, or taking advantage of existing loopholes, so that their claims can be tried in state courts — which are typically more favorable to plaintiffs’ interests.

Supreme CourtCurrent regulations stipulate that if a class action claim is pursuing damages in excess of $5 million, the case must be moved to a federal court, and these courts are generally seen as favoring defendants’ interests. The case that brought forward this discussion is Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles, and support for making changes was surprisingly found among a number of judges who are supportive of class action lawsuits.