Police across the country can continue to collect DNA samples from suspects in violent crime investigations after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the law allowing it.
- BACKGROUNDER: Crime, punishment and DNA
In a unanimous ruling issued on Friday, the top court rejected a man's argument that police violated his constitutional rights when they forced him to give a sample of DNA.
The man was convicted of assaulting a 14-year-old girl, who became pregnant. He is known as S.A.B. to protect the victim's identity.
Police compelled him to provide a sample of his DNA, and compared it to tissue taken from the girl's aborted fetus.
Experts said that the analysis showed an overwhelming probability that the man was the father.
Citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, S.A.B. said the police violated his right to life and liberty, and his right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure.
He argued that judges should hold requests for DNA warrants to a higher standard, suggesting that "reasonable grounds" for suspicion should be replaced by "compelling evidence."
Those arguments were rejected by courts in Alberta, including the Alberta Court of Appeal. But one appeals court judge agreed that the "reasonable grounds" standard wasn't sufficient to issue a DNA seizure warrant.
DNA analysis is a powerful investigative tool in proving the guilt or innocence of suspects in crimes such as rape and murder.
"Effective law enforcement benefits society and law enforcement is interested in arriving at the truth in order to bring offenders to justice and to avoid wrongful convictions," the ruling said.
Gathering such evidence mostly involves plucking hair, pricking skin, or swabbing saliva from inside the mouth.