The state of Washington is considering a bill that will require the collection of DNA samples from every person arrested of a felony or gross misdemeanor, before a conviction for anything, that is. The state of Washington joins more than twelve other states who have similar laws, while Indiana, Vermont and Texas are now considering such provisions. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has made the same proposal for that city. In Texas, under a new proposal, which faces an uncertain future in the current budget-cutting climate, DNA would be taken from everyone who is arrested on suspicion of committing Class B misdemeanors up to the most serious felonies.
Currently in the state of Washington, DNA samples can be taken from anyone convicted of a felony and from those arrested for particularly violent crimes such as aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and murder. This is typical of most states, like Maryland.
Washington’s law provides that police would have to obtain a search warrant before forcing the arrested person to give a DNA sample via mouth swab, or the police could obtain a sample of they could obtain a person’s “voluntary permission” to do so. The law provides that the DNA information would be destroyed if the arrested person were found not guilty or not charged.
Where would the DNA information be sent before the state authorities destroyed it? Perhaps the FBI records? Of course, no one expects the federal authorities ever to disgorge any information, they have acquired. They never do.
The executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs, Don Pierce, says the DNA information is “good technology. It solves crimes. We take fingerprints at the time of arrest, which in many ways is more intrusive.” This may not be so, since DNA evidence is more easily tampered with, however, in that it may be more easily placed at a crime scene. Regardless, there is no doubt the more information about it citizens which the government possesses, the better it can fight crime. If the government could just put video cameras into every single household in the U.S.A., it could put a huge dent in crime. There would be no privacy whatsoever, but the police would be so happy to finally get their chance to really fight crime.
Jack King, staff attorney for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Washington, D.C., said his organization has been fighting similar DNA-collection proposals since 2004. King said he believes that seizing biological evidence before conviction violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Shankar Narayan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington, said the proposal pending in Washington “takes the presumption of innocence and turns it on its head.”
A Chicago study found that requiring DNA upon arrest could have prevented dozens of murders and rapes. In one case, a man who was arrested for felony theft went on to commit a murder and left DNA evidence at the scene six months later. If his DNA had been taken at the time of his theft arrest, Chris Asplen, a DNA consultant from Pennsylvania , said the man would have been caught after the first murder. Instead, he went on to kill 10 women.
So the perpetual ying and yang tension of crime fighting efficiency versus the privacy of the individual continues. Do Americans want their governments to have a storehouse of personal information on every citizen? Great Britain has this. Wouldn’t a national identity card make the job of the police easier? Wouldn’t implants in every citizen make monitoring of citizens easier for the police, like in the science fiction movies, like in 1984 dictatorships?
Law abiding citizens have nothing to fear, we are often told. The police are only going after the bad guys. This is comforting to those who have complete faith in police discretion and fidelity, to those who have not witnessed the short cuts taken, mistakes made, mistakes covered up, rules bent, oaths violated, and lies told by police for various reasons and with various intentions, including “getting the bad guys,” but including many more personal and self-promoting motivations as well.
Great Britain already has the world’s largest DNA database. Anyone arrested in England and Wales is compelled to submit to a DNA swab and the record is kept whether he is convicted or not. In Scotland this rule is restricted to violent and sex offenders, and then for only three years unless an extension is applied for. According the Daily Mail, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty is right to be cautious before treating the entire population as suspects. He and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should take the same view of equally worrying plans for ID cards, and for intrusive surveillance on travelers to Europe. As the Daily Mail pointed out, “We are not all guilty, and we will lose much more than we gain if we submit ourselves to Big Brother.”
In these days of abuse of power, individuals who are charged with a crime or held as a suspect need to seek expert criminal legal advice. That’s why I urge anyone in that situation to visit my site at http://www.oklahomacriminallawoffice.com to learn how to choose the right lawyer to protect their rights.