The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging a California law in federal court ordering authorities to extract and database a DNA sample from people accused of felonies. “A lawsuit [.pdf], filed by the [ACLU] on behalf of two Californians who were arrested and released, seeks to overturn a voter-approved law that became effective this year,” David Kravets reports at Wired. “Proposition 69 [.pdf] requires detainees to provide a saliva or sometimes a blood sample upon felony arrest. The sample is stored in state and FBI databases, even if the arrested person is never charged or convicted of a crime.”
Ten other states—Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Vermont–have similar statutes.
The lawsuit states the California Justice Department’s account that of 332,000 arrested for felonies in 2007, 101,000 were not convicted of crimes. 53,000 samples have yet to be logged in the California state database and ProPublica cites the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) has about 293,000 in its backlog.
Mr. Kravets reports the ACLU is not challenging the databasing of convicted felons’ DNA samples or fingerprint collection.
“Regarding fingerprinting, the U.S. Supreme Court has said for more than 30 years that it is not a search,” Michael Risher, an ACLU attorney on the case, told Mr. Kravets. “But DNA, the method of taking it, is an invasion of our body. The more significant the invasion, the more justification the government needs.
“Our position is before you take somebody’s genetic information, you need either a warrant or that person needs to be convicted of a felony with all the procedural protections anybody gets when you are charged and tried with a felony.”
The courts have never addressed the ripping of DNA samples from suspects; nor has it addressed the databasing of the samples. The fact is that DNA is a part of someone’s body, owned by the individual occupying the body and no other.
Non-violent covert tactics to collect DNA are common in many states—the cup or can a suspect is drinking from, for instance. This is negligence on the part of the captive and for another discussion. Where damage to person or property is present with a DNA sample of a potential suspect, a sample to test for a match to the voluntarily—though, negligently—left sample is a part of that discussion.
The forced extraction of a portion of someone’s body is immoral–whether it is a Q-tip to the inner mouth or a needle to the vein–and should always be heavily scrutinized case-by-case. Opposed at all times without meeting a high burden of proof. Prop 69 grants a privilege to the illegitimate power of the State’s foot soldiers to install people into an neo-Orwellian biomatrix. That is an inherently unjust bypass of the basic morality of any legitimate criminal procedure.