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DNA samples

Supreme Court rules cops can collect your DNA if they arrest you

Saturday, June 29, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: DNA samples, warrantless searches, Fourth Amendment

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(NaturalNews) Your constitutional right to not be searched or detained by law enforcement officials without reasonable suspicion or probable cause has been further eroded by a recent Supreme Court ruling, which now allows police officers to freely collect DNA samples from individuals they arrest in connection with serious crimes. Even if such individuals are eventually found to be innocent and are later acquitted, such DNA collection can legally take place prior to this determination, according to the ruling's ambiguity.

As reported by The New York Times (NYT), the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court declares that law enforcement officials can legally swab the cheeks of detainees upon booking them, as well as submit this DNA evidence to national databases. Even in cases where there is no warrant for an arrest, police officers can collect DNA evidence as long as the arrest takes place in accordance with the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

But not every Supreme Court justice was in agreement that such a scenario is even legitimately possible. In response to the ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of its dissenters, expressed concerns about the constitutionality of DNA collection. Recognizing the likelihood of abuse, Justice Scalia pinned the ruling as an affront to the Fourth Amendment. He also pointed out the fact that innocent people arrested in error are the only ones who will be affected by the ruling.

"Make no mistake about it: Because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason," stated Justice Scalia from the bench. "Solving crimes is a notable objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail."

Adding to his dissent, Justice Scalia, who diverged from the opinions of his conservative counterparts in the decision, declared the ruling an "error," adding that "the only arrestees to whom the outcome here will ever make a difference are those who have been acquitted of the crimes of arrest."

You can read the full decision, which was made in response to the case of Maryland v. King, here:

Using warrantless DNA collection, false arrests as excuses to tie people to other crimes

In defense of the ruling, its supporters claimed that collecting DNA upon arrest is no different than taking fingerprints or photographs, which are common police booking procedures. But what they failed to address, and consequently justify, is the fact that the ruling will lead to abuses like false arrests, which in turn could lead to people being convicted of other crimes for which they were not arrested.

"Police can now arrest someone in order to get their DNA and this can tie them to other crimes although they are innocent of the crime for which they have been arrested," wrote one NYT commenter about the decision. "There will be a lot of inappropriate arrests bred by this ruling, something that should have been anticipated by a majority of the court. How does this advance personal liberties?"

Adding to this sentiment, other NYT commenters expressed major concerns about loss of privacy, particularly with regard to individuals' genetic makeups. The federal government will basically now have access to the genetic profiles of individuals everywhere, many of whom were never convicted of committing any real crime. And unlike with fingerprints, DNA samples allow for all sorts of other private information to be extrapolated about an individual, including his or her health history and family tree.

Sources for this article include:



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