Does DNA Testing and Database Cataloguing Violate the Constitution?

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What Is DNA Testing and Database Cataloguing?

When police swab a suspect’s cheek, or obtain blood or semen samples, they usually keep the sample and extract the DNA, to be stored in the national DNA database.

The practice of taking DNA samples is becoming increasingly common across the United States when a person has merely been arrested as opposed to formally charged. States are also collecting the DNA of juveniles and those convicted of minor crimes such as shoplifting. It is estimated that 80,000 people are added to the DNA database every month.

The FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is the U.S. nationwide DNA database and is used in all 50 states. The DNA database has been extremently useful to law enforcement authorities for assisting with “cold” cases, where the suspect is identified through a connection with the national DNA database. Also, rape victims of an unknown assailant can submit DNA samples and then the samples can be matched to someone’s DNA in the database.

Is This Practice Constitutional?

Attorneys and civil rights groups have questioned the constitutionality of this database. Opponents of DNA collection say it violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Unreasonable searches and seizures may occur when the police target certain groups and detain them for DNA collection without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Our judicial holds that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The Constitution protects this idea as it gives citizens the right to remain silent and the right to a trial by a jury of peers. Yet, with the advent of a DNA database, a person in the DNA database can get hauled in for questioning when their DNA is only similar to the sample found at a crime scene.

Finally, a DNA database may invade the right of privacy. Some state constitutions specifically protect the privacy of its citizens. Civil liberties groups argue that DNA information is linked with other unique genetic identifiers concerning one’s likelihood of acquiring diseases such as cancer. This information, which could potentially get into the hands of employers or insurers, could lead to genetic discrimination.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have been arrested or the police have contacted you to come in for questioning, you should speak with an attorney immediately. An experienced defense attorney will be able to inform you of your rights, help you with a defense, and advise you as to what options may be available to you. If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated in any way, it is always important to speak with a lawyer.

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Last Modified: 11-15-2013 04:25 PM PST

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