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Supreme Court decision examines constitutional rights

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As Texas residents understand, a major goal of the criminal justice system is to offer a fair process to those accused of a crime. In fact, beyond just a goal, the U.S. Constitution demands that the courts protect certain inherent rights of people accused of committing a crime. Criminal defense attorneys will agree that the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments protect an individual's right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure, preserve due process entitlements and insist that accused individuals have access to an attorney. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case makes one question how liberally a court might interpret these constitutional rights.

On Monday, June 3, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the DNA collection of one defendant was constitutional. Specifically, the man was arrested for assault. As part of the arrest procedure, police swabbed the inside of the man's cheek and ran his DNA through the police database. What they found led to a conviction for a rape which occurred years earlier. Thus, this court ruling makes it legal for police to force DNA tests when an accused is in custody for a serious crime.

Those opposed to the ruling agree that the decision could impinge on one's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The justices who ruled in favor of the DNA swab test reasoned that the procedure would help preserve the safety of citizens.

When an individual is accused of a crime, it is imperative that he or she take the criminal charges seriously. The recent court decision shows that an arrest for one crime can also operate as an investigation into other crimes. This new law can impact an accused's future substantially.

Source: Alamogordo Daily News, "U.S. Supreme Court upholds DNA collections such as New Mexico's Katie's Law," Milan Simonich, June 3, 2013

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