On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in Maryland v. King, by a vote of 5-4, that it is constitutional for police to take DNA swabs of felony arrestees–who have not yet been convicted of anything–without a warrant. It’s not whether the government can take DNA from people convicted of a crime. All states require DNA collection from individuals convicted of a felony. Instead, the issue is whether it’s constitutional to take DNA samples from people prior to their trial. The Supreme Court ruled yes.
So much for innocent until proven guilty and our 4th Amendment rights.
So what’s the difference between taking a DNA sample and fingerprints? One is actually used for identification and one is not. It’s falsely claimed by the majority om the Supreme Court that DNA swabbing is necessary to identify the suspect. As Justice Scalia notes in his dissent, “These DNA searches have nothing to do with identification.” By law, DNA testing only starts after arraignment and bail decisions are already made. At that time, the suspect has long been identified.
Scalia says that DNA analysis can take months, while the “average response time for an electronic criminal fingerprint submission is about 27 minutes.” Clearly, it is unreasonable to wait several months before a suspect is identified.
What if DNA evidence is needed to help solve the case? As Senator Ted Cruz who opposes the ruling writes, “If the government has good cause for needing the DNA sample—such as trying to match DNA at a crime scene to a particular person where there is other corroborating evidence—then the government can ask a judge for a search warrant. That’s what our Framers intended—judicial checks on extensive government power to invade our personal lives.”
What part of this does SCOTUS not understand? Oh wait…never mind.
Do you agree with the Supreme Court that it’s necessary for identification before a conviction or do you believe that the Fourth Amendment was just trampled on? Let me know what you think.