This week the Supreme Court ruled that taking a DNA swab from suspects arrested for “serious crimes” was constitutional. The case revolved around a man who was convicted of a crime unrelated to his arrest when his DNA was collected and run against a database of cold cases. The dissent was focused on the fourth amendment implications of taking the information from someone simply arrested while the majority decided it was no more invasive or troublesome than taking fingerprints. As a young person with vaguely anarchist tendencies what do you think of this decision? Is there even a remote chance you have a legal argument to back you up?
-Christine Luchok Fallon, Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court
I absolutely hate this decision. I’m inherently distrustful of the police and this certainly doesn’t help that they’re essentially being authorized to create a giant DNA database. I also don’t trust the judicial system, especially juries, to properly interpret DNA evidence especially with the way it’s treated like a magic bullet by every cop show on television. I also imagine this is going to be far from settled law as the ambiguous wording of “serious crimes” being eligible for swabbing seems to immediately open things up for more lawsuits. None of these are the biggest reason I’m angry about this decision. This has forced me into a situation that I find repulsive at the very core of my being, I agree with Antonin Scalia.
Antonin Scalia, a man I long thought to be my political antithesis, wrote the dissenting opinion for this case. I don’t even begin to have the legal knowledge necessary to read the whole thing (and it is really freaking long) but it seems we generally agree that the fourth amendment doesn’t allow the government to take a record of your DNA simply because you were arrested. This is the same person who has no problem with detaining people indefinitely without a trial so it’s not like he has a long track record with rights for people who may or may not have committed crimes. To say nothing of some of the horrible opinions he’s expressed about a multitude of other issues over the years. This is not a man I would like to be my ally.
While I’m not a lawyer I do think I can come up with a legal reason that this decision is bullshit. It comes up a lot of time with Monsanto and genetically modified foods that genetic sequences are intellectual property and are patentable. You wouldn’t let the police subvert a patent every time they arrested someone in possession of a patented item would you? Of course you wouldn’t because corporations have way more power than us silly mortals. I think the simple solution to this ruling is for all of us to get out there and incorporate ourselves and then patent our genetic sequence. At the very least that would be a great service for some crooked lawyer to offer on late-night commercials.