Monday, June 03, 2013

SCOTUS: It's OK for Police to Take D.N.A. Samples After Arrests

The US supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that taking DNA swabs from an arrestee, before a conviction, was constitutional - it does not violate the 4th amendment.

Probably the most interesting thing about this ruling was the lineup of Justices, who split non-ideologically. Roberts, Kennedy, Alioto, Thomas and Breyer were the majority while Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsberg dissented along with Scalia. Rare it is when Scalia and Thomas are on opposite sides, or Scalia and Ginsberg are on the same side!

Nevertheless, I need to side with the majority here - taking a DNA swab is no more "invasive" than taking fingerprints. If doing the former is unconstitutional, then so is the latter. But the constitutionality of fingerprinting (and then attempting to match the prints to others on file from crimes) is settled law.

What I would like to see is law that says that if the arrestee is released, or tried and not convicted, then the DNA records (as well as the fingerprints) are expunged.

Now if we could just get the Supremes to rule on the 4th amendment and computer searches (should be illegal without probable cause and a warrant) and police demands for passwords (which is a 5th amendment violation in my book) then we'd have an appropriate setting for arrests, detainment and searches. But I guess we'll go one step at a time.

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