It’s always bewildering and therefore exciting here in the PostScript bunker when an issue comes along that breaks people out of their traditional alliances of thought. For example, Eugene Robinson today finds himself agreeing with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It’s true and real and in the newspaper.
Specifically it’s about the recent Supreme Court decision that police can take a DNA sample of someone who has only been accused of a crime, and that the DNA sample can then be matched in a database of old cases to lead to an entirely different accusation. Robinson — and Scalia, in his dissent — object to the idea that DNA taken allegedly for the purposes of making sure the arrestee is correctly identified in the records can then be used to incriminate that person in a totally different crime. Is acquiring the DNA really for proving identity, or for amassing databases of evidence? Scalia and Robinson don’t like those two things mushing together, as will happen, they argue, because of the majority opinion.
All right, commenters! Bewilder us! Or share with us your own bewilderment!
I need to go and see a therapist. This is the third time in the last few weeks that I agree with Mr. Robinson.
Swab this author’s cheek, the real Mr Robinson is lost in the neighborhood, or held captive by Constitutional originalists.
Gene is right. Scalia is right. When he sides with the liberals, it’s almost a guarantee that something is amiss with the majority and that Scalia has stood on principle. The fourth amendment prevents the government from simply dragnet-ing the entire population to look for evidence to solve old crimes.
I have to disagree with Gene, who I usually agree with. A DNA swab is no more invasive, no more a violation of the 4th amendment than fingerprints. The difference seems to be the nature of the crimes committed. Fingerprints often are associated with crimes such as burglary, while DNA is often associated with much more violent crimes such as murder and rape.
Nevertheless, they both serve the same purpose – to link suspects to crimes. I’m sure fingerprinting was an advanced technology when it was first used. But the novelty of DNA analysis doesn’t make it any more or less invasive than fingerprinting.
I cringe to say it, but Scalia is correct on the law. An arrest is NOT proof of guilt. We are presumed innocent. Since we are innocent of any crime when arrested, there is no basis for collecting DNA from an arrestee–that is an unconstitutional warrantless search.
glennst01 has a compromise, possibly. If the DNA is just for ID, don’t check it against unconnected crimes:
Suspects released from custody by the police or released by a court should have their DNA samples erased.
Lee1865 echoes something jheath53 said–that DNA is most useful in rape cases–and argues that the difficulty in convicting for rape is an extenuating circumstance:
A DNA match is often the only way to accurately prosecute a rape. Perhaps we are finally turning a corner on this heinous crime.
And Holmes66 projects the Court’s majority argument onto the gun safety debate, which would probably create an even huger shakeup of traditional liberal vs conservative arguments:
Think about it, if there were a national database that contained the characteristics of each gun, law enforcement could more easily trace ownership of a gun used in a crime. I am sure the gun nuts would be up in arms (pun?) and the right wing of the SCOTUS would be against it.
Whooooa dang does PostScript want to see a comment section based on that! And of course, once the paywall is fully implemented all commenters will be cross-referenced by their DNA samples, so we will KNOW if they mean what they argue.