The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion recently that upholds a state law allowing police to gather DNA samples from all who are arrested for a serious crime. The controversial opinion is the court’s first ruling on privacy rights to genetic information.
The law puts into place a process for police to take a cheek swab from people who are arrested and process it and enter it into a federal database that also holds DNA evidence from crime scenes.
“Serious offenses” are typically defined as felonies or violent crimes such as homicide, but some on the court said that distinction was not sufficient to protect people from having samples taken when they are arrested for minor crimes.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the dissent that allowing this type of DNA collection violates the core of the Fourth Amendment protecting people from general, warrantless searches and seizures. Instead, he wrote, police can collect evidence from anyone who is arrested, whether they are eventually charged with a crime or not, and run it against a national database of unsolved crimes looking for a match.
Under the state law at issue in this case, DNA evidence is taken out of the database and destroyed if the charges against the person are dropped or if they are found not guilty of the crime.
What do you think – will this ruling help protect public safety? Or does the decision go too far and violate privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment?
Source: Bloomberg, “Routine DNA Testing After Arrest Upheld by Top U.S. Court,” Greg Stohr, June 3, 2013.