Citizens who have been arrested may be required to submit DNA samples to authorities before being convicted of any crime – and those records would be kept in state and federal databases.
The Washington state Legislature has introduced a measure that would require police to obtain the samples from even suspects accused of minor crimes such as shoplifting, according to the Seattle Times.
The proposal is part of a new movement in several states to adopt similar measures. More than 12 states already permit police to collect samples prior to convictions and three more are considering adding the provision.
Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, told the Times he welcomes the proposal.
“It is good technology. It solves crimes,” he said. “We take fingerprints at the time of arrest, which in many ways is a lot more intrusive.”
Critics claim Washington’s HB-1382, sponsored by Rep. Mark Miloscia, D- Federal Way, is unconstitutional because police and jail staff would be required to keep DNA records on adults and juveniles arrested on suspicion of a felony or gross misdemeanor.
Currently, police are required to obtain a search warrant or the suspect’s permission before collecting DNA by swabbing citizen’s cheeks.
“This bill would take the next step in the use of DNA technology to help catch individuals who have gone out and harmed people,” Miloscia told the Times.
According to the bill, authorities would remove a suspect’s DNA information if they were not charged or found guilty.
Each DNA test costs taxpayers $82, and the price tag for the plan could reach $1 million over two years. Miloscia said Washington could look to the federal government to recover some of those costs.
Jack King, staff attorney for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Washington, D.C., told the Times his group has been battling DNA-collection measures since 2004. He said requiring authorities to obtain DNA before convicting a person would violate their constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizure.
“DNA samples reveal the most personal, private information about a person’s physical and mental makeup,” King said. “It is terribly unfair to an arrestee.”
Upon learning of the controversial, several readers posted the following responses:
- This goes beyond stupid. They say that if the person isn’t convicted that they will destroy the sample. That is a lie. The federal government will not destroy records simply because a state destroyed theirs.
- I don’t like it one bit. There should be a warrant provided before they take my DNA.
- What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Even if found guilty, this is extreme for minor offenses.
- The idea is to build a national database with everyone in it. This is just another step in the process. Next you will be required to provide a DNA sample when you get your driver’s license, and then they will simply take it at birth when you apply for a birth certificate. The point of the measure is not identification. They can already ID you. The point is to make it normal for people to give DNA samples to the national database. After all, only people with something to hide would object to this type of intrusion and surveillance. Right? Everyone needs to e-mail their legislator and tell them you do not want this or else they will just do it. This is not about criminals.
- To the morons who say, “If you aren’t a criminal don’t worry about it,” our Founding Fathers gave us a Bill of Rights that gives us freedom from such sorts of unreasonable searches and seizures. The government has no right to my DNA chain until I am convicted of a felony and not before. As one of our great Founding Fathers has said, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”
- I wouldn’t trust the government promising to destroy the sample. When I joined the military, they took my fingerprints “for a security clearance check” – and they went into the great big database with all the criminals. Later, they took my DNA — “so there would be no more unknown soldiers” – and later Congress passed a law making this DNA available to any police department that requests it. And there is no provision to request destruction of the sample. Once you give the government an inch, it will take a mile.