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Published On: Tue, Jun 4th, 2013

Supreme Court approves DNA collection when arrested, says it’s modern day ‘fingerprinting’

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the police practice of taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime, ruling that it amounts to the 21st century version of fingerprinting.

The ruling was 5-4. Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, joined three of the court’s more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in dissenting.

DNA photo Square87 via wikimedia commons

DNA photo Square87 via wikimedia commons

The five justices in the majority ruled that DNA sampling, after an arrest “for a serious offense” and when officers “bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches.

The case, described by Justice Samuel Alito as “the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades,” represented a classic test between modern crime-fighting technology and centuries-old privacy rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority’s 5-4 decision, in which one liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, concurred. The key to the ruling, Kennedy said, is “reasonableness.”

“DNA identification of arrestees is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure,” Kennedy said. “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

“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,” Scalia warned. “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA whenever you fly on an airplane.”

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says:

    AS A NUDIST, THERE IS A HIGH PROBABILITY I COULD BE ARRESTED AT ANY TIME – SEVERAL PEOPLE ON THE STREETS OF MEMPHIS HAVE SEEN ME NUDE. INDECENT EXPOSURE IS A MISDEMEANOR.

    YES – TECHNICALLY, I AGREE; A “CHEEK-SWAB” FOR DNA IS THE TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY VERSION OF A FINGERPRINT. BUT, AS AN ATHEIST, I BELIEVE THE HUMAN BODY BELONGS – IN TOTAL – TO THE ENTITY WHICH CONTROLS THE BRAIN. THEREFORE, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TAKE AWAY SOMETHING WHICH NEVER LEAVES AN INDIVIDUAL’S POSSESSION.

    THIS ARTICLE IS QUITE TELLING. Justice Antonin Scalia SAYS, “Make no mistake about it … your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested … for whatever reason … ;” BUT, THE FIVE JUSTICES OF THE MAJORITY SAY, “for a serious offense.”

    LET US SAY, AN EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD MALE NUDIST IS ARRESTED FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE; TWENTY YEARS LATER, HE ENGAGES IN “S&M” SEX WHICH APPEARED TO BE CONSENSUAL. AFTER THE EVENT IS OVER, THE FEMALE – WITH LIGATURE MARKS ON HER NECK/WRISTS/ANKLES AND OTHER BRUISINGS – GOES TO POLICE HAS A “RAPE-KIT” PROCEDURE. SINCE THE MALE’S DNA IS ALREADY ON FILE FOR THE INDECENT-EXPOSURE CHARGE, IT WOULD BE EASY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT TO PROVE, “Yes, you did have sex with this woman!” [semen-sample/DNA match]. WHEN COMBINED WITH THE LIGATURES/BRUISINGS ON THE FEMALE’S BODY, THAT MALE IS IN TROUBLE. [Think about all of the times in which females cried rape, but, males did not know it].

    MY POINT IS, IF “CHEEK-SWABS” MUST BE TAKEN, IT SHOULD BE FOR FELONY ARRESTS ONLY; IF Justice Scalia IS CORRECT, THE COURT NEEDS TO CLARIFY ITS RULING.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

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