WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Divided Supreme Court rules in favor of routine DNA testing without warrant

It's not the lead story from the Associated Press or the networks but one could argue that this story has greater, longer-term implications than many others:

U.S. Supreme Court Justices voted 5-4 that law enforcement could routinely collect DNA evidence from people busted for "serious offenses" without cops needing a reason to suspect a particular person -- before trial and conviction.

The case produced a quirky alignment of justices - Justice Antonin Scalia joined the high court's three progressives (not Justice Stephen Breyer, a Democratic appointee) and delivered an apocalyptic dissent from the bench.

The Obama Administration supported the state of Maryland, comparing DNA collection to fingerprinting. For what it's worth, fingerprinting isn't intrusive. Collecting DNA is.

What do you think? A further dangerous erosion of our civil liberties, particularly the 4th Amendment, or analogous to fingerprinting?


Posted at 11:47am on June 3, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 12:14pm

Really depends on what "collecting DNA" entails. If people are forced to give hair follicles or sperm samples then, um, yes, that would be intrusive.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 12:34pm
My understanding is typically a cotton swab from the person's inside cheek...

Allan Loudell

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 12:49pm
Swab inside the cheek was the method in the case. Hair follicles left (on clothing or a hair brush, for example) are used to obtain DNA during investigations.

What's funny is parents who object to having schools collect DNA and fingerprints from kids, which could be used to find missing children. Apparently, parents are worried their kids will grow up and commit crimes and these parents want to help them avoid being convicted.

Once again, right-wing talk show host Allan Loudell panders to the great unwashed asking for their uninformed and prejudiced opinions, perpetuating the illusion that their so-called "thoughts" matter. Or maybe so he can correct them.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 1:07pm
I am not a right-wing talk-show host and I actually personally oppose this high court ruling.

You're correct about the hair follicles; I just typed a quick response while I was on-the-air.

By the way, a cotton swab inside the mouth is actually more intrusive, isn't it?

I make no apologies, though, for inviting input from everyone, including the people you denigrate.

Allan Loudell

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 1:43pm
Alas, now When the machines take over they will already know who has the potential to rebel, and who will meekly accept them as masters and to their bidding to stay alive... :)

It used to be we psychologically tried to act out our DNA. Now to survive we will have to act out the opposite of what our DNA says we should be...


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 2:57pm
It's curious, the same people who want photo IDs for voting, oppose universal fingerprinting and DNA samples. If we are going to require legal IDs, we might as well do the best possible job of being able accurately to ID people. The judicial system's "batting average" for determining "whodunit" is pretty pathetic. Too often, they convict the innocent and free the guilty.

And rubbing a Q-tip against the side of your mouth doesn't really qualify as intrusive.

I have to wonder what those who oppose collecting DNA have to hide.

One argument against a DNA registry used to be that with DNA sampling people might be denied health insurance. Health care reform has gotten rid of that one.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 7:29pm
I see no harm in this ruling. Law enforcement has always fingerprinted arrested individuals, and DNA is simply an extension of the same thing. It's an additional tool which will in some cases convict and in other cases exonerate people of crimes. Additionally, DNA, like fingerprints, is almost totally error free and foolproof.

I should also point out as well that this only applies if you're arrested. Cops don't take fingerprints in cases of writing tickets for traffic violations because technically the person isn't being arrested, and so that also would extend to the extraction of DNA. In other words, only in cases where fingerprinting is involved would DNA extraction take place. The two go hand-in-hand.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 1:18am
This decision is very tricky. I'll need to sleep on this one.

But here are some considerations. Once I have your DNA, I can split it apart and replicate it in the lab. It can then show up where ever I put it. Fingerprints are harder to fake, though usually no one checks what the technician determines. I believe that techinician lives in West Virginia now.

Furthermore, once I have your DNA, I can know a lot more about you than you know of yourself. Fingerprints can't do that.

But on the other hand... I don't know you and if you've committed a bunch or rapes and murders from California to Delaware... I got you... That's a good thing.

I'll need to sleep on it. I think as with eavesdropping, the best way in this case to keep honest people honest, are lawsuits with very big payoffs. The threat of those seems to be the biggest modifier of human behavior....

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 6:30am
kavips: This technology, and the ever-decreasing costs of it, mean that in addition to being part of your police record, it will become part of your medical record and your personal record. Now, some people spend several hundred dollars to learn where their ancestors really came from and what their medical risks are. Some people here think Angelina Jolie made the right decision to a double radical mastectomy. She was only able to have a choice because of DNA testing. It's one thing to know a grandfather had a heart attack. It's another in your 20s to know you have gene that puts you at risk of a heart attack - to know it when there's a lot you can do to keep that risk from being realized. We may live to see everyone carry ID with their DNA profile encoded and that would be a good thing. You get taken to the ER, they will know not to give you some drug that would make your condition worse. So, yes, test everybody - as soon in life as possible and as often as necessary, and give them a copy.

Whatever technology you are taking about, someone will look for ways to cheat. All the more reason to stay current.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 9:14am
kavips sums up why this is such a bad idea...

"...once I have your DNA, I can know a lot more about you than you know of yourself. Fingerprints can't do that."

I have the right to remain silent (Miranda)...do I also have the right to refuse a DNA test?

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 9:49am
The fourth amendment was intended to stop the government from torturing people to get confessions. Well, they are torturing - pardon me, using "enhanced interrogation techniques" - any way. Cops still beat up "perps" in back rooms. But using DNA to find out the truth - oh, no!

Do you have the right refuse a DNA test. Not any more. You don't have the right to refuse to give fingerprints either - and that's a lot messier.

What's the matter, Earl? Do you have something to hide?

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 10:02am
Kavips is right to be concerned about how this information will be used.

You are arrested (or even just stopped, just wait a few years until this is legal) and your DNA is on record. You are acquitted, but it is still kept on file, because the cops can.

You go to the bank on a hot day and put your sweaty hands on the counter. The next guy in line robs the bank, the cops swab the counter, your DNA is on it, you are arrested. After all, DNA doesn't lie, does it?

You apply for an important job with a large banking company. Due diligence: they hire a private investigator to check you out. He buys your DNA results from the police, and finds your genetic code contains the marker for BRCA, breast cancer. You don't get the job because you might cost extra in health care. As a matter of fact, you are no longer employable, because the insurance companies share information about "problem" customers.

You help your buddy move some furniture one day, including a new bureau, into the bedroom. A few weeks later someone breaks into the house and rapes his wife. Your DNA is found on the bureau. Typical cop mentality: "What were you doing in her bedroom? We know you were there. DNA doesn't lie, does it? You had no reason to be there. You were jealous of him because he makes more money than you. You thought you could get back at him by raping his wife. Didn't you think she was hot? Why else would your DNA be there?" You are arrested for rape. Your photo is in the paper. You lose your job, your house, your wife, your family, all your savings. Maybe you're acquitted later. Who cares? All is gone.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 10:36am
dunmore: Maybe you've heard of the health-care reform act? Some call it "Obamacare?" It was in all the papers. What you fear has happened. It's now illegal. The flip side of must-buy insurance is absolutely can-buy insurance.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 8:33pm
Dunmore has brought up some very possible realities. These are some of the things that can potentially happen with abuse of DNA technology, or simply overzealous cops.

Yes, billsmith, you're right about Obamacare making denial of pre-existing conditions illegal, but that won't work for very long because the costs will eventually drive companies, and many individuals, into bankruptcy.

If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free.

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 8:22am
"If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."

Bull, Pizza! The US spends 17% of GDP on healthcare. Canada, with universal - single-payer - health care (like spineless Obama took "off the table") spends eight per cent. Health care is never free. Nothing is. But the new system is cheaper than the current system; although not as cheap was what every other developed country has.

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 9:20am
DNA sampling is no different than fingerprinting, once you're taken into custody. They still need a warrant if charges have not been brought against you.

Fri, Jun 7, 2013 1:40pm
bmak, one gets fingerprinted whenever one is booked under an arrest. One is still innocent until prove guilty. But the fingerprinting is mandatory for any arrest, (beginning with a DUI and going upward) and gets sent to the FBI for correlation with their records.

Fri, Jun 7, 2013 1:41pm
Mr. Pizza ... if stuff costs more when it's free, why does everyone getting pizza ask you what they can get for free? Is it so they can pay more? lol.

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