This week, I caught a story on the Atlanta news that immediately drew my attention. A state Representative, MY state Representative, will introduce a bill during the next legislative session that requires every suspect arrested of a felony to submit to a DNA sample. Without careful examination, along with a very friendly news report about the bill, this does not strike many everyday citizens as a “bad thing,” as seen in the first comment made about the story.
As you saw in the video, suspects ARRESTED on felony charges would be subject to having their DNA taken in a manner similar to their mugshots and fingerprints. In this state, along with 46 other states with similar DNA collection laws, those CONVICTED of a violent felony are already subject to having their DNA taken, but this bill aims to take it further by including those whose only crime was being subject to arrest. That is where the Southern Center for Human Rights and I agree. This bill violates the civil liberties of those accused of a crime, not those whose rights are subject to suspension for crimes which one has committed or been convicted.
I do not use the term “slippery slope” generously, but this bill, and those like it, certainly place us on a slippery slope in terms of our Constitutional rights, as law enforcement agencies collecting these DNA samples place them in databases that are easily shared from agency to agency, especially with the recent introduction of fusion centers that allow information to be shared easily from departments and agencies nationwide. I am sure there are many among you that may say, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about!”, but I ask that you take a look at stories like this or this that indicate otherwise. Neither of the victims of police violence did anything wrong either, but it did not stop the misconduct by the police that forever changed their lives. What is to stop a “dumbing down” of the police and other law enforcement agencies to the point of merely casting a net among those possibly involved, arresting them all to eliminate those without DNA matching evidence found at the scene of a crime? Or worse, subjecting all Americans to a mandatory DNA collection in the name of safety?
Currently, there are 21 states, including California and Tennessee, with laws in place collect DNA upon felony arrest, store it in perpetuity, and share it with whomever they like. The rationale used by supporters of pre-conviction DNA collection is that it identifies criminals earlier and creating efficiencies in the practices of investigation, blaming rights granted by the Constitution of these United States as slowing down law enforcement investigation. Those “pesky” rights they wish to bypass in the name of safety and investigation efficiency include a trial by a jury of peers, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and due process of law.
It is one thing to be “tough on crime” when running for a statewide office, but it is entirely another when you promote an agenda that suspends the liberties of everyday citizens in the name of putting them in jail more quickly.