People who voluntarily submit to questioning in a police station relinquish any claim to the perspiration they happen to leave behind on a chair — even when a detective examines the bodily fluid for DNA linking them to a crime, a divided Maryland high court ruled Wednesday.
A DNA test on perspiration is merely a method to gather identifying information, much like collecting a fingerprint, and does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches, the Court of Appeals held in its 4-3 decision.
“In the end, we hold that DNA testing [of] genetic material not obtained by means of physical intrusion into the person’s body is no more a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment than is the testing of fingerprints or the observation of any other identifying feature revealed to the public — visage, apparent age, body type, skin color,” Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote for the majority.
In its decision, the high court upheld the rape conviction and 100-year prison sentence of Glenn J. Raynor, whose surreptitiously collected DNA matched that found near the victim.
Raynor had no “reasonable expectation of privacy in the identifying characteristics of his DNA,” Barbera wrote. “[He] exposed to the public, albeit not to the naked eye, the identifying content of his genetic material he left on the armrests of the chair.”
Raynor also “was not subjected to the forcible collection of his genetic material, or any other bodily intrusion,” Barbera added.
The case the high court decided was reminiscent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 3, 2013, decision in Maryland v. King, in which the justices upheld, by a 5-4 vote, a Maryland law that permits police, without a warrant, to swab for DNA the inside cheeks of people arrested on charges of a violent crime.
But unlike Alonzo Jay King Jr., Raynor had not been arrested when his perspiration was collected, Judge Sally D. Adkins wrote in a scathing dissent.
“The result of the majority opinion is that, short of searching a person via touch or entering her home, the state may collect any person’s DNA, create a genetic profile, and add it to the [law enforcement] database, all without implicating, let alone respecting, any constitutional protection,” Adkins wrote. “The state may do this regardless of the legal status of the person.”
No decision has yet been made regarding an appeal to the Supreme Court, said Byron L. Warnken, Raynor’s appellate attorney and a University of Baltimore School of Law professor.
However, law-enforcement collection of DNA without a warrant, consent or exigent circumstance is “certainly taking over our lives to the point that the Supreme Court is going to have to resolve the issue,” Warnken added.
Brian S. Kleinbord, of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, praised the court’s decision in an emailed statement.
“We are pleased that this court has recognized the importance of DNA evidence in the pursuit of justice on behalf of crime victims,” said Kleinbord, who heads the office’s criminal-appeals division. “This important public safety tool, and good police work, put a dangerous criminal behind bars. While the case presented a different issue than Maryland v. King, this ruling’s impact on police investigations is no less significant.”
The Maryland State Police’s investigation of the April 2006 rape was into its third year when the victim suggested Raynor as the possible perpetrator, according to court documents. She and Raynor had gone to school together, knew the same people and he had at one time lived in the house where she was later raped, the victim told police.
The MSP asked Raynor to come to state police barracks and answer questions in July 2008, which he did. After Raynor left, a trooper swabbed the chair where Raynor had sat and sent the swabs to the forensics division.
A test revealed a match for DNA found on the victim’s pillowcase and patio.
In June 2009, Raynor was convicted in Harford County Circuit Court of first-degree rape and related charges and was sentenced three months later to 100 years in prison. The intermediate Court of Special Appeals upheld the DNA search, conviction and sentence in a Sept. 29, 2011, opinion, prompting Raynor to seek review by the Court of Appeals.
Barbera was joined in the majority opinion by judges Lynne A. Battaglia, Robert N. McDonald and John F. McAuliffe, a retired jurist specially assigned to hear the case.
Judges Glenn T. Harrell Jr. and Clayton Greene Jr. joined Adkins’ dissent.
WHAT THE COURT HELD
Glenn J. Raynor v. State of Maryland, CA No. 69, Sept. Term 2013. Reported. Opinion by Barbera, C.J. Dissent by Adkins, J. Argued April 8, 2014. Filed Aug. 27, 2014.
Do the police violate a person’s constitutional right against unreasonable searches by collecting DNA from the sweat he or she leaves behind?
No; the non-forcible collection of DNA is no different than “the testing of fingerprints, or the observation of any other identifying feature revealed to the public.”
Byron L. Warnken for petitioner; Robert Taylor Jr. for respondent
RecordFax #14-0827-20 (47 pages)