Monday, June 3, 2013
Supreme Court Rules Cops Can Now Take DNA
I once told my niece that social changes were rife with unintended consequences. This is because of the massive complexity involved in the social fabric. Imagine a giant web of strings all interconnected to one another and each part having a string hanging down just within reach. As you pull one string, the desired effect is achieved, but it also moves seven other strings at various places in the web that you didn't intend to move. This is the mechanism for those "unintended" consequences we hear so much about in the news.
The Supreme Court recently decided that police can now routinely take your DNA for storage in a national database if you are arrested. This means that no longer will a court order be necessary to collect it. It will be taken with your fingerprints and mug shot as a matter of course. The State of
had ruled this to be an invasion of privacy and prohibited such an action. With
the Supreme Court ruling, that has been overturned and this is where those
unintended consequences arise. Maryland
If your personal privacy has deteriorated to allowing the local police to place your DNA in a national data bank for being arrested while drunk in public, a misdemeanor, that also undermines Roe v. Wade. Roe was decided on the spurious pretense that a woman's right to privacy allowed her to take the life of her unborn child. The logic was tortured, but enough Justices signed on to it that they forged a new law from the bench. With that tenuous connection to privacy now threatened by the recent decision regarding your DNA, the Supreme Court may have just lain the foundation for the reversal of Roe.
Justice Kennedy said in his majority opinion, "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." It matters not what the charge is, it matters not if this is your first offense, and it matters not if you were arrested by mistake. All that matters is that you no longer have a right to privacy for your DNA which has been uploaded to a national database for future reference and if your DNA is a matter of public record, then how could that which is created from half of your DNA be protected by your personal right to privacy?
In fact, your children and their children automatically become members of the same database from your sample. Let us say that your great grandchild's DNA was found at a crime scene in the future. You were arrested for exposing yourself while drunk at Mardi Gras when you were nineteen. Nobody else in your family was arrested, but your DNA pops up as a great grandparent to the suspect DNA. The police trace it downstream and presto! We have our suspect. It doesn't matter if the DNA is guilty or innocent. You have been positively identified. While that is great from a police perspective, it is alarming from a personal privacy perspective.
It means that your essence is now a matter of public record. Stop and think about that for a minute. If the fourth amendment no longer applies to what makes you, you, then what right to privacy do you really have? Has not your privacy been invaded to the greatest extent possible? If that which is unique to only you can be taken like your fingerprints, then what is left?
The Supreme Court hasn't realized any of this yet, but they will get the picture as time goes by and they have a chance to reflect on their monumental stupidity. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the unintended consequences always get you in the end. Always. The only silver lining to this decision is the potential impact on Roe, and perhaps that can save some lives and make a terrible situation somewhat better.