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Supreme Court rules on cheek swab case

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In a 4-1 decision handed down June 30, the Indiana Supreme Court found a man's consent to the swab of his cheek for DNA was voluntary, so the swab didn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

In Arturo Garcia-Torres v. State of Indiana, No. 64S03-0912-CR-550, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard authored the majority opinion that delved into caselaw regarding extracting bodily evidence from a person, such as blood draws, urine samples, and fingerprints. Arturo Garcia-Torres, convicted of rape, attempted rape, and two counts of burglary, challenged the denial of his motion to suppress DNA evidence taken from a cheek swab while he was detained by police. Garcia-Torres was read his Miranda warnings in Spanish prior to the swab and confessed to attempting to rape one of the victims. The DNA taken from Garcia-Torres matched the DNA taken from another victim's rape kit and DNA found on a shoe left in another victim's apartment.

His incriminating statements to police were suppressed because the Miranda warnings hadn't been accurately translated into Spanish.

At issue is whether a cheek swab from a person under arrest is a search requiring its own separate warrant or other justification. The chief justice noted that most courts that have addressed the constitutionality of cheek swabs have concluded that it is a "search" for the purpose of the Fourth Amendment.

The justices looked at cases dealing with searches, including blood and breath samples, and non-search examples that dealt with fingerprinting.

"Fourth Amendment principles seem to suggest that DNA has more in common with fingerprints then it does with blood alcohol content, but like many courts, the parties to this appeal have taken for granted that the swab was a search requiring its own separate probable cause proceedings, even for a suspect in lawful custody for rape," Chief Justice Shepard wrote.

The evidence shows that Garcia-Torres voluntarily consented to the cheek swab, so it was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The majority also held that a Pirtle advisement wasn't required before the swab was taken. The various interests at stake on occasions when the high court has required a Pirtle advisement — police searches of homes or vehicles — aren't present in the instant case, so Garcia-Torres didn't have to be given the advisement that he had the right to consult an attorney about giving consent to search.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, focusing on the issue of whether a person in police custody is entitled to be advised of his right to counsel before consenting to a cheek swab for DNA. A cheek swab is search under the meaning of the Federal Constitution, he wrote, and this can be no less true under Indiana's Constitution.

The Indiana Constitution makes no distinction as to what the search is when it says "the right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search or seizure, shall not be violated. ..." It doesn't matter whether the search is of a home or a person, he wrote.

He found the search in this case to be illegal because it was conducted without a warrant, but because Garcia-Torres consented, there was no violation.

"But, the Indiana Constitution provides greater protection than the Federal Constitution. And under our state constitution the investigating officer was required to advise Garcia-Torres that he had a right to consult with his lawyer before consenting to the search. Because no such advisement was given, the consent was invalid as a matter of Indiana law," he wrote.

He would reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial.
 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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