Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (06/07/2013)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 4:36pm

Which federal court ruled that the police can seize the DNA of innocent Americans who have never been convicted of a serious crime, even without a search warrant?

Under what piece of legislation has the federal government been secretly surveilling the calls of every Verizon Business Network Services customer?

According to original ACLU analysis, arrests for what drug demonstrate staggering racial bias in drug law enforcement?

In which state was a 14-year-old chased, thrown to the ground and put in a chokehold by police officers based on the boy’s allegedly “dehumanizing stares”?

A Colorado bakery refuses to sell what baked good to same-sex couples for wedding ceremonies, yet will provide that same item for dog marriages?

Supreme Court Ruling a Blow to Genetic Privacy

The Supreme Court's 5-4 Maryland v. King decision upholding Maryland's arrestee DNA testing law is a serious blow to genetic privacy. The ruling allows the police to seize the DNA of innocent Americans who have never been convicted of any sort of crime, without a search warrant. And as Justice Scalia makes clear in his scathing dissent, the majority opinion goes against decades of precedent that makes it clear that the police cannot search an individual for evidence of a crime (and that's clearly what they are doing here) without a specific reason to think that the search will actually uncover some evidence.

The NSA Surveillance Order, Explained by the ACLU

Using the Patriot Act, the U.S. government has been secretly tracking the calls of every Verizon Business Network Services customer – whom they talked to, from where, and for how long – for the past 41 days, according to a report published by The Guardian.

NEW REPORT: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Marijuana Arrests

Marijuana has become the drug of choice for police departments nationwide. According to The War on Marijuana in Black and White, released on Tuesday, police made over 8 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, and marijuana arrests now account for half of all drug arrests in America. Almost 90% of these are for possession – which means that thousands of people have been unnecessarily ensnared in our criminal justice system just for having marijuana.

14-Year-Old Arrested for Playing with Puppy While Black. Seriously.

Last week down in Florida, 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was playing in the water with a friend at the beach when a Miami-Dade police officer approached him to ask what he was doing, misinterpreting their play for a fight. Tremaine walked away from the officers, carrying his new puppy in his arms. After observing his allegedly "dehumanizing stares" and clenched fists, the officer used his ATV to chase Tremaine down and throw him to the ground in a chokehold so intense that the teenager wet himself during the incident. It was his mother who caught part of the incident on camera.

A Wedding Cake For Fido & Fluffy But Not For Dave & Charlie?

Stephanie Schmalz and her partner, Jeanine, wanted to order some cupcakes to celebrate their commitment ceremony. They contacted Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado, but the store refused to take their order, informing the couple that they have a strict policy against selling cakes for same-sex weddings and ceremonies.

Then Stephanie tried a little experiment. She called the bakery and told the owner, Jack Phillips, that she was planning to host a wedding celebration for two dogs. She told him that the dog wedding cake would need to feed 20 people and should be decorated with the names "Roscoe" and "Buffy." Without hesitation, Phillips quoted her a price and asked how soon she needed it.

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