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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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