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Maryland Court of Appeals Upholds Breathalyzer DNA Seizure

The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a criminal defendant's motion to suppress DNA evidence used to convict him of manslaughter.

In December 1995, Jacqueline Tilghman was raped and murdered. Semen found on vaginal and anal swabs was turned over to the state crime lab for DNA testing and storage.

In 2001, Tonto Corbin was identified as an associate of Tilghman and investigators asked him to voluntarily submit a DNA sample for testing. He declined.

Corbin was on probation for a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) conviction, which required him to submit to alcohol breath tests.

Homicide investigators arranged for Corbin's probation officer to administer a breath test, so they could secure his DNA sample from the discarded breathalyzer straw.

The straw was sent to the crime lab for DNA analysis. Corbin's DNA matched the semen recovered from Tilghman and he was charged with her rape and murder in 2004.

The trial court denied Corbin's motion to suppress the DNA evidence on the ground that it was seized without a warrant. After a stipulated facts trial, Corbin was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the denial of the motion to suppress DNA evidence, holding that Corbin did not have an expectation of privacy in either the straw or the DNA obtained from it. The Court of Appeals then affirmed, holding that Corbin cannot meet the two-part test for a legitimate privacy interest outlined in Williamson v. State, 413 Md. 521, 993 A.2d 626 (2010) and other cases. See: Corbin v. State, 428 Md. 488, (Ct. App. Md. 2013).

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