Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Supreme Court ruling allows DNA abuses

In one of the few times I agree with Scalia, he has dissented from a 5/4 ruling that says it is OK for cops to take DNA samples upon arrest.

Kennedy incorrectly stated that DNA sampling is like fingerprinting or photographing.

Privacy invasions is not measured solely by how much time or physical inconvenience, but instead by what you can learn about someone, and countered by the safety needs of the cop.  That is, it is OK to to do a strip search to check for weapons before you put someone in jail, but to forensically examine their financials based on a belief they mugged someone.

Fingerprinting and photographing are used solely to identify the person arrested.  Yes, you can sometimes connect fingerprints to a location (proving presence, but not the committing of a crime), but DNA goes far beyond that.

I am going to ignore the facts that DNA is both easier to plant as evidence (anyone can move a liquid sample, prints stick to surfaces)  and less reliable than fingerprints (fingerprints are always unique, some people have twins and they don't do full DNA scans so DNA false positives can happen).

Instead I am going to talk about the many personal and private things that DNA says about you besides your identity.  These are all things DNA can tell you NOW, let alone in a decade.

  1. It clearly lists parentage.  People should not be forced to deal with sudden realization that you are a bastard or adopted.
  2. It identifies racial groups that can not be identified any other way (As in, wow, I didn't know I was descendent from Jews and apparently my dark skin and curly hair come from a black great grandfather, not from being Italian.)
  3. Health issues, including the knowledge of specific deadly disease that DO NOT HAVE ANY TREATMENT.
These things are not minor issues.  They are major ones with major psychological impacts on people.  

I am not saying we should outlaw DNA testing, or even not do it on jailed citizens.  I am saying that arresting someone does not meet the barrier for doing the testing.

Police can arrest ANYONE for ANYTHING.   They don't need a reasonable suspicion, they can do it on a whim.  Cops are known to arrest people based on race, based on political beliefs, or merely for pissing of the cop.  If the cop wants DNA, they can arrest an 4 year old child on an accusation of money laundering, then test his DNA, then release him saying "woops, we got the wrong guy".

Then they can match his DNA up on a familial basis and issue an arrest warrant for his father for an unrelated murder charge.

No, this law is rife with potential abuses.

If we want to do a DNA scan of every single citizen of the country, that is one thing.  I would be happy to consider such a dramatic and drastic change.  It makes a lot more sense than doing it to people arrested.  It could stop quite a bit of crime, rape in particular, as well as make assigning financial responsibility for fathering a child much easier.

But there is NOTHING special about arresting someone except in the mind of the cop, something we can not trust.  Most cops are good guys, but some can not be trusted.  That is why we don't let them search houses without a warrant, and why they should not have the right to pick and choose who gets a DNA test.

Either give it to all of us, or give it only with a warrant.

Doing it on 'arrest' is asking for discriminatory abuse.

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