If the ‘stop and frisk’ was not an intrusive enough practice for cops, many are now being commanded to obtain DNA from people they stop on the street, regardless of whether or not they have committed a crime.
There is no law on the books, which can compel a suspect to provide a DNA sample, without a warrant. The desire to catalog every human in the country for future crime prevention purposes is seemingly becoming more common. Despite the verbal games police will try to employ, they cannot, under any circumstances, force you to provide a sample.
For many years, detectives would trick people into giving a DNA sample by offering them a beverage while being questioned. The courts found that their attempts to circumvent judicial process were in fact, just that, and the courts outlawed the practice. Well, that wasn’t enough for overzealous cops who deem it necessary to document everything about everybody. Unfortunately for us, cops are proficient in convincing us to hand over our rights. Cops will now try to trick the consent from people, in order to acquire a DNA sample. Once consent is given, you sacrifice all rights related to your stop.
One of the departments who has amassed criticism over their voluntary DNA collection program is the Melbourne, Florida police department. The head of the department’s investigations unit stated to the media, “In Florida law, basically, if we can ask consent, and they give it, we can obtain it. We’re not going to be walking down the street and asking a five-year-old to stick out his tongue. That’s just not reasonable. But let’s say a kid’s 15, 16 years old, we can ask for consent without the parents.” The statements from the Melbourne PD are frightening, to say the least. Would DNA profiling your teenage kid make you feel safer at night?
The United States Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision in 2012, which temporarily allowed arrested subjects to be DNA swabbed as part of the booking procedure. The case of Maryland v. King was overturned, upholding the requirement to get a warrant. The problem with DNA swabbing at the street cop level, is that they are not looking for evidence to connect you to the crime committed, they are trying to add you to the database, in order to run your DNA for other open criminal cases. The need for a warrant protects the individual from unnecessary ‘search and seizure,’ as they are unrelated to the crime the individual was arrested for.
Another concern for this indiscriminate swabbing for DNA, is the fact there is not a single federal standard for collection. The federal government relies on CODIS, the federal law enforcement database. Police turn to cheap labs to process high volumes of cases. The failure to function under a uniform standard can result in poor collection, processing and analysis techniques. These lesser quality and quick methods of DNA analysis and comparison can often lead to false positive matches and an overall contamination of the system. “Private labs that offer such fast, cheap testing that police can afford to amass DNA even to investigate minor crimes, from burglary to vandalism,” stated Michael Garvey of the Philadelphia Police Department’s forensic department. Garvey also alluded to the fact that these techniques lead to “meaningless or coincidental” matches.
At no time during a police encounter is any citizen required to provide a DNA sample. Refusing to provide a sample to a cop who asks, is not resisting or obstruction, no matter how the cop tries to spin it. The slippery slope of Fourth Amendment invasions, which we encounter by police, are a mere glimpse of what is to come. While our freedom from unlawful ‘search and seizure’ is withering, for the time being we still have the right to say ‘no’. As we have seen time and time again, the implementation of additional security and law enforcement practices has not led to us being safer. The collection of voluntary DNA has already been challenged in the courts, but unfortunately we are all free to make bad and uninformed decisions.
Sources: The Free Thought Project, SCOTUSblog.
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