Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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

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."

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