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Thursday, Jan 3, 2013
MCDANIEL ASKS HIGH COURT TO UPHOLD JULI'S LAW
LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today that he has joined attorneys general from across the country in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a state's right to collect DNA samples from suspects arrested for violent crimes.
The high court next month will hear arguments in Maryland v. King, a case in which a Maryland state court ruled it unconstitutional to take DNA samples from individuals who have been arrested for violent crimes, but who are not yet convicted. State attorneys general, in an amicus brief filed Wednesday, argue that DNA sampling laws serve an important public safety function and are constitutional. Arkansas joined every other state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court's decision.
Arkansas is one of 28 states that collects DNA samples for use in a forensic identification database. Suspects arrested for capital murder, first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping, and first- and second-degree sexual assault are subject to DNA sample collection in the state.
The Arkansas law is known as "Juli's Law" and is named for Juli Busken, a 21-year-old University of Oklahoma student and Benton native killed in 1996. Her killer was apprehended as a result of a DNA match. The law was initially enacted in 2009 by the General Assembly. In 2011, McDaniel's legislative agenda included a bill to add rape to the category of offenses for which samples can be taken from suspects.
"DNA databases help protect our communities against violent, repeat offenders and allow law enforcement agencies to solve more crimes more quickly," McDaniel said. "I have been a strong advocate for Juli's Law and its constitutionality."
In their amicus brief, the states argue that use of DNA databases improves the ability of law enforcement agencies to solve crime, while helping to minimize the number of innocent persons being investigated for crimes they did not commit.
The states said upholding the lower court's decision would upend precedent regarding the constitutionality of fingerprinting and collection of other identifying information about criminal defendants, practices that have been in place for decades.
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