Post-arrest DNA tests and the Supreme Court: Ruling was inevitable
June 05, 2013 12:15 AM | 1846 views | 3 3 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Constitution’s Bill of Rights guarantees the right of Americans “to be secure in their persons” against “unreasonable searches and seizures” unless authorized by a court-issued search warrant.

Does having the police swab the inside of a suspect’s mouth for a DNA sample violate that person’s security? Certainly, the swabs are intrusive in a way that the long-established police IDs of fingerprinting and mug shots are not. And as with those procedures, no warrant is required for DNA swabs.

But is DNA testing “unreasonable,” given its growing successes in freeing the wrongly convicted and solving cold cases?

By a 5-4 margin the Supreme Court ruled this week that the swabs are justified for the sole reason of verifying the identity of the person in custody. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the testing is a reasonable police-booking procedure.

In opposition was maybe the court’s most unlikely coalition: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia. Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer joined the majority opinion.

Scalia predicted that eventually DNA tests would be entered into a national database and possibly — at the cost of protecting people from “suspicionless law enforcement searches” — lead to closing unsolved crimes.

The case before the Supreme Court involved a Maryland man who was arrested for menacing his neighbors with a shotgun. A DNA test led to the man’s conviction and a life sentence for the rape and robbery of a 53-year-old woman six years earlier.

The decision left many legal questions unanswered. Maryland law requires DNA tests only for the most serious crimes — murder, rape, assault — but, as Maryland’s attorney general noted, there’s nothing to prevent police from taking swabs in minor cases like shoplifting, and sending the samples off to a national database.

A test now largely confined to serious crimes may become routine with police stops, especially as the cost of testing decreases. Scalia raised the possibility of DNA becoming a routine feature of the Transportation Security Administration’s pre-flight screening.

In a sense, Monday’s decision was inevitable — if not now, then certainly down the road. As crime-fighting technology improves and public surveillance becomes more pervasive, the traditional legal notions of privacy and propriety are steadily eroding.
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Be Careful
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June 05, 2013
This is a tough one. Agree that personal freedoms are eroding with increased technology.

But, crime is also increasing. What do you do?

DNA is a wonderful thing. It has allowed the capture of criminals when no other means worked. It has also prooven people innocent and overturned convictions. Both of those things are about as good as it gets.

Compared to everything else that happens when someone get booked into jail, taking a cheek swab doesn't really escalate things into the extreme.

And I certainly don't disagree with keeping a national database of criminal identifications.

Most criminals are repeat offenders. The faster they can be identified, the better off we'll all be.

And if you don't want your DNA in a national database, don't get arrested. You may say I'm being a smart ass or being overly simple in my thinking. But, we all know what's against the law and what's not. It is a choice we all make. Be a good law abiding citizen, or not.
Do you drive?
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June 06, 2013
Do you drive a car everywhere you go? IF so, the day The Man wants your DNA is the day you will get pulled over for things you do every day without a second thought, such as rolling thru stop signs at 2mph, going 12mph over, proceeding through a yellow light you might could have stopped at.

"Don't get arrested" .. That ain't up to YOU, as you are not in charge of your own arrest.

When the cops home invade the wrong house and take DNA samples before admitting "sorry, wrong house," will the DNA samples be purged? Ain't no way!
Qs but no As
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June 05, 2013
A few questions

1- How long until DNA testing is part of routine traffic stops, and once that is determined to be wasteful of taxpayer money due to inefficiency, how long until DNA testing is part of driver's licensing, and once that is determined to be wasteful of taxpayer money due to inefficiency, how long until DNA testing is part of the birth certification process currently producing birth certifcates? This is a steep and obvious and very slippery slope we just started downhill on.

2- When DNA is run against the database, is it also entered into the database and saved for later?

3- If it's saved for later, is DNA collected and saved by our government in a readable form where they can test it in 20 years for whatever disease, or is it digitally hashed into a sequence whereby it could be tested only for "Match / No Match" against another DNA sample, the way passwords work today? If the gov't can say only "yes this DNA's hash matches that DNA's hash," maybe it is not so bad. If they can say "Yes, this person will get that disease the CDC in Atlanta scientists just finished sequencing, call the Obamacare department and let them know," then that is pretty darn bad.
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