The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that police do not need a warrant to collect DNA from a male suspect’s genitals, potentially making it easier for authorities to secure sexual assault convictions.
Police have greater search powers when dealing with people who are arrested, and a penile swab, which seeks a complainant’s DNA and not the suspect’s, would be a reasonable part of that, the court ruled.
“A penile swab does not fall within the scope of R. v. Stillman,  1 S.C.R. 607,” says the majority decision penned by Justice Richard Wagner. “First, a penile swab is not designed to seize the accused’s own bodily materials but rather, the complainant’s. Accused persons do not have a significant privacy interest in a complainant’s DNA. Second, a penile swab is in some ways less invasive than taking dental impressions and the forcible taking of parts of a person. Third, unlike with the accused’s bodily materials or impressions, evidence of the complainant’s DNA degrades over time. In sum, a penile swab implicates different privacy