Supreme Court and Individual Freedoms – Difficult to Determine, Harder to Rationalize

http://news.yahoo.com/dna-swab-arrestees-cheek-reasonable-search-supreme-court-201434454.html;_ylt=A2KJ2UZttLNRTzEAAqTQtDMD

Well, It would seem that my blog from last time may have been a bit premature.  Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is sometimes OK to take DNA samples of arrestees.

The United States Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does this case differ from police taking blood for a DUI/DWI stop is the immediate question that follows this recent ruling.  In each case fluids of the individual are being taken. In the case of blood, the police/government argued that circumstances might exist that would cause the evidence (blood/urine) to become unusable, and therefore should not require a warrant.   The Court, however, found that if the totality of the circumstances so warranted the intrusion, then there should be no problem getting a judge to sign a warrant for the taking of the fluids.

In the DNA case, “In a 5-to-4 decision, the high court said that as long as authorities have probable cause supporting an initial arrest for a “serious” crime, the government may collect DNA from any arrestee, store it in a database, and use it to help solve other crimes. Such a routine collection procedure is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, the court said.”

So it would seem the Court is trying to balance the intrusion by the seriousness of the crime, and not the loss of liberty to the individual.  One could argue that the mere swabbing on an arrestee’s mouth does not give rise to a level of intrusion on personal liberties, because DNA can be gotten from almost anywhere; hair, skin, silica, etc.  Most people leave DNA all over the place without even knowing it – see my dogs hair in my car for a better understanding.  In fact, one can say that since the police are allowed to take and keep fingerprints, then DNA should also be allowed.

This, however, does not mean that the government should get a free pass to collect and maintain such information on an individual, especially when the person in question has not been convicted.  If the police are arresting an individual, and said individual is properly charged and convicted, then by all means, the government should have a record on that person.  However, until the final verdict, that individual must be protected to the fullest extent that the Constitution and state law provides.  And that means obtaining a warrant.

 

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