ACLU Sues Over DNA Collection for Arrestees

It's one thing to take DNA samples of those convicted of a felony. It's another to take it of all persons arrested, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in federal court in California today.

The ACLU says DNA sampling is different from the compulsory fingerprinting upon arrest that has been standard practice in the U.S. for decades. A fingerprint, for example, reveals nothing more than a person’s identity. But much can be learned from a DNA sample, which codes a person’s family ties, some health risks, and, according to some, can predict a propensity for violence.

What’s more, in California the authorities are allowed to conduct so-called “familial searching.” That is when a genetic sample does not directly match another, so authorities start investigating people with closely matched DNA in hopes of finding leads to the perpetrator.

The complaint is here (pdf). A summary of the law being challenged, Prop 69, is here (pdf). Here's a congressional study saying the courts haven't fully addressed the issue and discussing 4th Amendment implications.

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    Frightening (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:05:25 PM EST
    As well as gross and disgusting. Don't most of us have a propensity for violence.  If my children were in danger I will say right now, I could be violent as quickly as deciding to be so if I deemed that the action most likely to protect my children or save my children.  I have never been arrested, but do I need to be flagged if something like that appears in my DNA?  How many times are people arrested due to only suspicion?  Why should this branch of government simply be trusted with my DNA?

    God save the ACLU... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:07:40 PM EST
    this is a biggie in my book, huge issue...DNA sample collection at time of arrest is one of the scariest police-state tactics going.  Our DNA is ours and ours alone unless we choose to share it.

    Ummm....can't they just measure (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by oldpro on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:14:57 PM EST
    our testosterone levels to gauge 'propensity' etc.?

    Ducking.  Please...no violence.

    Whoop whoop (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:50:29 PM EST
    is the sound of the pc police comin' to get ya oldpro...you man-hater you:)

    Heh. Actually, I love men...two (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by oldpro on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:55:30 PM EST
    specifically:  enlightened husband who lasted nearly 30 years before cancer got him and a 50-year-old son.

    And all my male friends, of course...quite a few of whom are gay and lots of fun.  I'm the most violent one in that crowd.


    According to the link to summary of (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:52:02 PM EST
    Prop. 69, DNA sample is not collected from every arrestee.  Has to be felony and for specified alleged crimes only.  If no charges are filed or person is acquitted, etc., DNA sample must be destroyed.

    So I'm just supposed to trust someone (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:55:56 PM EST
    they would destroy my sample?  If someone is convicted of a sex crime don't we usually already have their DNA profile?

    Jeez, you read the link? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 08:48:58 PM EST
    I hate it when people bring facts into TL converstions. ;-)

    Don't you? BTD's got me trained. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 09:06:19 PM EST
    But, no, I don't always.

    And how does the need (none / 0) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:57:48 PM EST
    to find the "propensity for violence" in the DNA fit into collecting the DNA of certain felons.  Wouldn't those be people already convicted of "being violent"?

    I'd be surprised it courts accept (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 07:23:34 PM EST
    expert testimony re propensity for violence on basis of DNA analysis.  Junk science, I hope.

    There are disorders (none / 0) (#16)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 07:34:36 PM EST
    that could cause a propensity for violence, but I don't think a DNA analysis would prove it.  You'd need more than that.

    Paranoia will destroy you (4.00 / 1) (#17)
    by diogenes on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 08:18:57 PM EST
    I'd collect DNA from EVERYONE.  Wouldn't you want to arrest someone for a crime and suddenly find that they are the unknown rapist or murderer from other unsolved crimes?  Don't they do that with fingerprints and mugshots now?  Isn't part of exonerating the falsely accused convicting the guilty, or is left-wing criminal defense only about collecting scalps in the form of acquittals?    

    There is a pretty gaping disconnect re (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 09:07:28 PM EST
    DNA on behalf of innocence projects (is that the only evidence upon which the jury relied) and this post.

    most of the innocence cases (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 03:01:43 AM EST
    involving DNA involve trials in which DNA evidence was not introduced because tests were not performed, or if they were, the advancements in DNA testing after the trial allow more specific findings. Many times prosecutors didn't turn over DNA evidence for testing. (And many innocence cases don't involve DNA at all because there was none preserved or found. Cases involving faulty eyewitness identification, junk science, lying snitch testimony and false confessions are some of the causes for reversals of these convictions.)

    From a deterrent perspective (none / 0) (#23)
    by Fabian on Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 05:51:23 AM EST
    the idea that your DNA was on file and accessible to law enforcement everywhere should prevent a few crimes.  

    It would also make it easier to find possible suspects AND witnesses.  Imagine a crime scene where the assumption is that there was one victim and their attacker, but you find DNA from four people.  Now you wonder how many possible victims, assailants and witnesses and witnesses there are.  


    Has it ever happened? (none / 0) (#24)
    by Patrick on Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 12:29:00 PM EST
    As noted above, there are other things that DNA testing can be used for, suppose someone arrested gets their DNA tested, they are shown not to be linked to a crime, but other information(health, etc, as noted above) is leaked to the detriment of the arrestee?

    Has this ever happened?  Is there some case where this information has been released unintentionally or used for some other purpose?  


    Again, as I said (none / 0) (#26)
    by diogenes on Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 08:26:44 PM EST
    Paranoia will destroy you.

    Dark Avenger (none / 0) (#30)
    by CPI1000 on Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:38:22 AM EST
    You seem well informed about Officer Chrisman are you his attorney??

    please re-writ e this without the (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 04:16:21 PM EST
    profanity. Use an asterisk if you must.

    I honestly fail to see much difference (none / 0) (#7)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 05:04:21 PM EST
    in taking a photo, fingerprint or cheek swab.

    Trust me, if the guy in the photo has scars around his eybrows and nose, that probably predicts a propensity for violence also.

    And, iirc, fingerprints are also used in a "familial search" - you get a number of partial matches and start winnowing down the group.

    I really think there's very little downside and lots of upside to this proposal.

    I don't like "on arrest". (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 05:20:30 PM EST
    It takes a lot to become a convicted felon, but all it takes to get arrested is a lack of judgment when interacting with an officer.

    Exhibit A: Prof. Gates. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:46:41 PM EST
    If whoever is running local law enforcement (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 06:52:37 PM EST
    wanted, they could literally encourage the building of their own "database".  Gee, then they could sell it to someone too years later when nobody was paying attention. And you can be arrested and simply released hours later in Alabama for essentially nothing as I understand it around here.  In New Brockton a city council member spends every session attempting to figure out how to bankrupt the local police department.  I don't pretend to know why, but I know his sister-in-law and his brother who live down the street from me.  She was Josh's teacher last year too.  They are very decent and sane people, and the people of New Brockton voted her brother-in-law and one other new council member, who works with him on this, in the last election for some reason I'm not aware of.  He sure makes the paper a bit though with his latest antics at the meetings.

    That city council member (none / 0) (#28)
    by AX10 on Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 09:33:31 PM EST
    has balls.

    Dark Avenger (none / 0) (#29)
    by CPI1000 on Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:27:58 AM EST
    you seem well informed of Officer Chrisman are you his attorney??