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Government Crime Privacy The Courts

SCOTUS Says DNA Collection Permissible After Arrest 643

schwit1 writes in with news about a ruling on the legality of the police collecting your DNA after an arrest. "A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday said police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common jailhouse procedures like fingerprinting. 'Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,' Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's five-justice majority. But the four dissenting justices said that the court was allowing a major change in police powers. 'Make no mistake about it: because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,' conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom. Details of ruling available here.
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SCOTUS Says DNA Collection Permissible After Arrest

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  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#43896525)

    I don't see the difference between this and finger printing. If you are going to do either and the person is not found guilty that stuff should all be tossed out.

  • Should be noted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 ( 2625955 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#43896537) Journal

    "Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. "

    On no other issue will Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan all agree with each other.

  • New opportunity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#43896539)
    Can they then sell these public records to a middle man who can extract the relative information and sell it to insurance companies? Because I may have a business proposition for some biology undergrads.
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:56AM (#43896593)
    Same restitution you get for having your finger prints & mug shot taken against your will.
  • by myth24601 ( 893486 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:56AM (#43896607)

    Doesn't matter. This gives police license to run dragnets for DNA.

    They can't solve a case but have DNA and a vague description, they will simply "arrest" anyone and everyone who is a close match to the description on trumped up charges that will be dropped after they get their DNA.

  • by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:57AM (#43896611) Homepage

    The difference is, a finger print does not contain medically private data.

  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @11:59AM (#43896649)

    Scalia is mostly just a conservative hack these days, but sometimes he remembers that he used to have actual principles. Good for him – on this issue, he's absolutely right on the merits.

    The majority decision is terrible because it means that if the authorities want your DNA for whatever reason, all they have to do is come up with some excuse to arrest you. They don't have to make the arrest stick, just get you into the system.

  • Facebookification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:01PM (#43896677)

    The problem here isn't so much with the collection of DNA, but the retention. That seems to be a common theme here at the start of the 21st century - data collected for one purpose is then reused for other purposes.

    I think it is reasonable for the police to check if someone they've arrested is a convicted felon. But once they've looked you up in their database of convicts, the collected data should be destroyed, be it DNA, fingerprints or even a mugshot. If you are subsequently convicted, they can go and re-collect the data for the purposes of making a permanent entry into the database of convicts.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:06PM (#43896747)
    They already have license to run said 'dragnet' with your fingerprints. I'm as liberal as they come...and I really don't see the issue here. Now, like fingerprints, once charges are dropped, all such collected evidence should be destroyed.

    Basic point, treat it like the other identifiable information they already collect on you. Is this really that hard?
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:10PM (#43896813)

    Using this sort of logic is not getting you any converts.

    Very few liberals believe that and you know it. Such arguments are just driving people away from every agreeing with you.

  • by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:18PM (#43896907) Homepage

    Indeed, just looking at future implications.

    The point is police can speak to a doctor about my medical HISTORY, not my medical FUTURE.
    They cannot read my medical records, nor should they able to sequence my genome and find potential for FUTURE MEDICAL, or if we're looking into future here, risk of FUTURE CRIME (ie propensity for crime, certain damaged genes/code, high likelihood of quantifiable low intelligence.).

    The point is you can tell a lot of about a person which is "none of your damn business" so to apeak from their genome, which you cannot tell from a finger print of iris scan.

    Fingerprints and irises are non-invasive and reasonably reliable compared to Genome testing for identification of perps. When it comes to privacy I prefer to err on the side of caution and 4 well informed SCOTUS judges.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:20PM (#43896933) Homepage

    A cheek swap does not equate to GATTACA.

    Not yet at least.

    How long before school boards decide to start swabbing all children "for their own safety"?

    Since this will invariably be done by a for-profit company, that data becomes something forever on file.

    I think taking DNA from anybody and everybody is going to cause all sorts of problems down the road.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:29PM (#43897069)

    The difference is, a finger print does not contain medically private data.

    Neither does CODIS, which is a loci of STRs [] that are not medically relevant. It might be different if the police were actually sequencing the entire genome, but they are specifically looking for irrelevant areas because those necessary have the most variance between people and hence the most specificity.

    To put it another way, heritable traits are much less likely to be different between potential matches and so are a bad choice for genetic fingerprinting.

  • Re:New opportunity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:33PM (#43897119) Journal

    There is a big difference between a DNA sample that could be used to match a crime scene and sequenced DNA . Just a hunch but I doubt the local police would be interested in the headache involved of storing HIPAA data.

  • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:37PM (#43897175)

    I disagree with you on almost every point (except for your statement of the common theme).

    The bar for becoming a convicted felon has been rapidly lowering over the years. The more police powers we grant, the less Free we become. This decision has just provided an incentive for our lawmakers to make many more of us convicted felons for ever increasingly flimsy "offenses."

  • To be fair, in my observation, very few on the right believe such either. What disturbs me most is that these polarized views are from people who are convinced they know what their "opponents" think but don't actually think about what their own side's messages/actions are. I'm quite firmly in the middle with a slight left and libertarian (small L) political view. I truly find it disturbing.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:45PM (#43897299) Homepage

    The world is not actually quite as horrible as you're gloomily projecting.

    The world steadily gets more horrible, and things intended for one thing invariably go through some scope creep.

    I have very little faith that in even 5-10 years they couldn't find some way to get around these laws, they always do. If corporate profits are seen to be suffering, many lawmakers will give them anything they want, and won't give us a second thought.

    I don't need to worry what happens to information they don't collect. But as soon as they do start collecting it, that's when stuff starts to go awry.

    You may trust the government to not eventually be assholes and douchebags, but I don't.

    If you can be stopped for a 'border check' within 100 miles or so of the border, I wouldn't exactly keep counting on them not to do whatever they please. Once the courts validate the ridiculous positions government puts forth, there's no going back.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:56PM (#43897467) Homepage Journal

    A great number of genetically-linked diseases are expected to be measurable in SNP's. Many haven't yet been identified. It's nearly a given that some of the currently collected DNA SNP's will be linked to diseases in the future.

    Somehow I doubt HIPAA PHI rules violation consequences will be imposed on Barney Fife.

    BTW, this argument about fingerprinting is being made in reverse on this thread - the DNA situation highlights why the fingerprints decision was wrong, however long ago that was made. Let's try to be logically consistent here.

    This argument is of course, only in theory. In reality, the masters will do whatever they want to their slaves.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:22PM (#43897767)

    Because Liberals, like O'Malley, believe in a police state. It is much easier to oppress your population and monitor them if you have their fingerprints and DNA on file.

    Did you accidentally migrate from the Yahoo comment boards or something? Sheesh, what insight?

    Very few Americans want anything like a police state. It's likewise very easy for a police state to form without access to any DNA records. Interestingly enough, it is probably easier, unless you seriously suggest that law enforcement will just say "Yup, a perfect DNA match" to every case, even if the whole country watched a woman kill someone on Television, and the "perfect match" is a black man from across the country with an ironclad alabi.

    In an efficient Police state, no evidence is needed, and even better, all suspects will be killed trying to escape. DNA swabs would be a real nuisance to a police state, as they would eventually be a tool used aganst the state.

    All it would take is one doctor willing to take on the risk, send the contradictory DNA proof of malfeasance zipping across the internet and its Game On!

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:39PM (#43898579)

    "Interesting breakdown. Scalia joined 3 of the 4 liberals (Ginsberg, Sotomayer, and Kagan. Breyer broke with the liberals and voted in favor of the opinion. It also means a rare moment where Thomas didn't vote in lockstep with Scalia."

    What amazes me is that the majority only considered whether the physical search is "intrusive", but not whether the results (being in a database) would be intrusive. As such, they left out at least half of the real 4th Amendment issue, which is great opportunity for this to be re-visited later.

    If there were ever a SCOTUS decision that deserved to be reversed, this is definitely one of them.

    There is no doubt that the Government has "an interest" in collecting the DNA for identification. At the same time, the potential for abuse is ENORMOUS. Much higher than with just about anything else. And not just abuse, but mistakes of epic proportions.

    This was a BAD DECISION. Period. One of the giant elephants in the room of the Supreme Court's recent history of bad decisions.

  • Re:GATTACA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @03:31PM (#43899065) Journal

    Yes it is. "Being detained" is something they made up to get around your rights*. If you are not free to go, you are under arrest.

    Just look at the definition. In a non legal sense, arrest means "1. To stop" That's exactly what detain(1. To keep from proceeding) means. Same thing.

    In a legal sense, arrest means "2. To seize and hold under the authority of law." If a police officer has told you that you are not free to go, then he has siezed you under the authority of law.

    Detention is arrest. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar who is trying to trick you out of your rights. That includes members of the SCOTUS.

    *They do this trick a lot. You have legal rights granted under civil and criminal law... but they made up "administrative" law where you have no such protections. There are legal rights granted to civilians and to soldiers... but they made up "enemy combatants" who have no such protections. It's the oldest trick in the book, don't fall for it.

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