Daytona Beach Police made headlines this week for taking DNA samples from “persons of interest” during traffic stops, and plans to start taking DNA samples from anyone arrested in the very near future. This extreme policy was ostensibly enacted to catch an elusive serial killer. (Incidentally, a similar DNA dragnet in Truro, Mass. in 2005, yielded nothing.)
Aside from the reasons outlined in our post on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s similarly preposterous policy, taking DNA samples from anyone arrested is a clear violation of Floridians’ Constitutional rights under the fourth and fifth amendments. In addition, it puts Daytona Beach citizens in a no-win situation: if you’re arrested for anything, you’ll be asked to volunteer a DNA sample. As WESH.com reports, “But if the killer knows police are asking for DNA, he won’t agree to submit…others who don’t [volunteer a sample] will be viewed with suspicion or worse yet, coerced.”
“So what?” you might wonder. “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Even so, do you really want to give the government access to the most personal details about you? With a DNA sample, the government is privy to your ancestral line, any predisposition to physical illness, mental illness, alcoholism, addictive tendencies, sexual orientation, and criminality. And this is where the fam comes in: By contributing a DNA sample, you’re effectively volunteering up strands of DNA of all of your blood relatives, thereby expanding the DNA databank to include your family members.
The Federal Government stores all of this information in its CODIS database, (you can learn more about it at the eerily named dna.gov) for use in future criminal investigations. Given possession of this information, law enforcement could investigate and harass not only previously arrested people who have given their DNA, but also their family members. It’s no longer guilt by association. Call it “guilt by birth,” the opposite of immaculate conception.
Expanding DNA collection to those arrested is going down a slippery slope. Previously, DNA was collected only from felons convicted of homicide or sex offenses. Then the dragnet included anyone convicted of violent felonies. Then anyone convicted of any felony. (You see where this is going…). Today, it’s all arrestees, Tomorrow, why not swab anyone who’s ever questioned in an investigation, or is stopped at a random DUI checkpoint?
Think about that the next time you’re asked to submit to a breathalyzer test.