* Maryland seeks OK to take DNA samples from arrestees
* Court to review second criminal case, over sentencing
(Adds details of DNA sampling case, second criminal case
accepted for appeal)
By Jonathan Stempel
Nov 9 The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to
consider whether a state may collect DNA samples from people who
are arrested but not yet convicted of violent crimes, in a case
that may have national implications for law enforcement.
Maryland is appealing an April 24 decision by the state
Court of Appeals overturning the 2010 conviction and life
sentence of Alonzo Jay King for a rape committed seven years
earlier, and prior to his 2009 arrest for assault.
A DNA sample taken following that arrest without a warrant
had linked him to the earlier crime.
In overturning King's conviction, the Maryland appeals court
said the state's DNA Collection Act violated the ban on
unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution.
That Maryland law lets police take DNA samples from people
arrested for violent crimes, attempted violent crimes, burglary
and attempted burglary.
In July, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts put
that lower court ruling on hold, allowing the law to remain in
effect, while Maryland appealed the King case.
Roberts said at the time that there was a "fair prospect"
that the Supreme Court would reverse the ruling, and that the
ruling subjected Maryland to "irreparable harm."
The chief justice said the court of appeals ruling
conflicted with three other courts that had upheld laws similar
to Maryland's DNA collection law.
He also said the appeals court ruling had national
implications because it would, if upheld, prevent the FBI from
getting the samples for a national database.
Collecting DNA samples "implicates an important feature of
day-to-day law enforcement practice" in half of all U.S. states
and the federal government, Roberts said.
SENTENCING TO BE REVIEWED
The Supreme Court on Friday also accepted an appeal in a
second criminal case, agreeing to decide whether a convicted
defendant might face a longer prison term simply because federal
sentencing guidelines had changed since the time of the offense.
At issue are "ex post facto" limits in the U.S.
Constitution. These forbid state and local governments from
retroactively changing punishments that could have been applied
to activity that predated a change in the law.
The case involves a challenge by Marvin Peugh to a 70-month
prison term he had received for his 2010 bank fraud conviction
over loans for two farming businesses he had run with his
cousin, in a scheme that prosecutors said had begun 11 years
Peugh said he should have been sentenced under the 1998
sentencing guidelines in effect at the time of the offense,
which called for a maximum 46-month prison term, rather than the
2009 guidelines, where 70 months was the shortest recommended
But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago
disagreed. It said there was no ex post facto violation because
the guidelines are advisory.
In his appeal, Peugh said five other federal appeals courts
had rejected this reasoning, and believed the proper test was
whether retroactive application of the sentencing guidelines
created a significant risk of longer prison terms.
Though sentencing judges need not follow the guidelines,
which could lessen this risk, Peugh said the Supreme Court has
required judges to take them into account, and ensure there is a
sufficiently compelling justification for any deviation.
The Supreme Court is likely to hear oral arguments in both
cases early next year, with decisions to follow by the end of
The cases are Maryland v. King, U.S. Supreme Court, No.
12-207; and Peugh v. U.S., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-62.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Kevin
Drawbaugh and David Brunnstrom)