On Wednesday, February 13, 2008 the House Judiciary Committee has voted to bring to the House floor legislation that requires that DNA will be collected at the time of arrest.
If this bill passes, and is signed into law, you can be arrested and your DNA taken and placed into a database. Apparently, they’ve added something to the original bill that was proposed. If you’re found not guilty, your DNA information will then be destroyed.
Proponents of the law, which is dubbed Katie’s law for a graduate student that died a violent death, say that it will save lives. If you’re arrested and you’ve committed a crime in the past where they have some DNA from that previous crime, but they don’t have your DNA, they will then be able to run you through a national database in the hopes that you’ll be caught from that DNA sample and they can charge with that crime. It’s difficult to argue against it using that logic.
Does the good that this laws advocates state outweigh the possibilities of abuse and infringe on people’s rights? Let’s examine that. First, the day the law is enacted, the law enforcement community will need to start building their database. Remember, this is a government function. We already know how imperfect they are at nearly everything. Social security is failed government program. Medicare is a failed government program. On the state level, we just went through a couple of tax increases because the state was supposedly broke, but then after the law was passed, they miraculously found millions of dollars. Notice they didn’t correct their “mistake” by returning the money to the taxpayer. Can we trust the government at any level to operate this successfully?
Assume for moment that you’re driving down the road. You reach over to adjust the radio and you drift across the line into the next lane. You notice it and move back where you belong. Unfortunately for you, the officer sitting in the speed trap also noticed you cross the line. The lights come on, and before you know it, he’s behind you expecting you to pull over. You pull over and he implies that you’ve been drinking. He orders you out of the car, puts you against the car and searches you, puts the handcuffs on and tells you that you’re being arrested for possible drunk driving. You’ve now been arrested and you’re going to be required to give your DNA. Whatever else happens, your DNA is now collected.
If they find that you’re not guilty, according to the law, they are supposed to destroy your DNA. However, before they release you, your DNA is released around the country to all of the other law enforcement agencies. Are they also required to destroy the results of the DNA test?
Let’s try one more example. Your 13 year old son is throwing a baseball outside. One gets away from him and goes through the neighbors window. The neighbor is very upset and he comes out using foul language. You come out to find out what the commotion is about and you start yelling at your neighbor for using the foul language. Your wife is nervous about the yelling so she calls the police who come right out and witness you and your neighbor arguing. They decide to arrest you and your neighbor for disturbing the peace. They also arrest your son for destruction of property. They handcuff the three of you and haul you in. They take DNA from the three of you. You and your neighbor are charged with disturbing the peace. The police run the DNA through the database and you, your neighbor and your son all are clear from any history of criminality where DNA was found.
Since disturbing the peace is not a felony, yours and your neighbors DNA is supposed to be destroyed. Did the rest of the nation destroy the reports too? Alas ,there is a problem for your son. He’s charged with destruction of property. He’s found guilty. Unfortunately for him, the window he broke was a picture window worth $2,000. Is that amount enough to classify it as a felony? If so, your 13 year old son, now not only has a record, but he also has his DNA kept in the database for the rest of his life. You have a 13 year old felon living under your roof and his DNA is on file with the law enforcement community. All because your neighbor lost his temper and you went out to defend and protect your son.
Normally, in this situation the two neighbors would get it settled and if it were my dad when I was 13, he’d have paid for the neighbors window to be replaced and I’d have had to work off the cost of the window and repay my dad. Or, if the neighbors were arguing like that and the police showed up, they’d just calm everyone down and there would be no arrests. Now, with the opportunity to collect DNA the incentive for them to settle it without arrests is gone.
Some would say, so what? Even if they collect your DNA, if you haven’t done anything wrong you’ll have nothing to worry about. Or, if you never do anything wrong, it won’t matter if they have your DNA. Others might say I’m being paranoid and that the police wouldn’t just go out and start collecting DNA because they can.
To the first, I’d say, how do you know I have nothing to worry about? Suppose they catalogue my DNA wrong? Suppose they don’t destroy it, or some other state doesn’t destroy the reports that come through their computers on me. This is probably worse than the old days when you might have an FBI file created if you protested the war in Ann Arbor and they found out your name.
To the second, about being paranoid and that the police wouldn’t start collecting to build their database, I would have to ask where this trust in officials comes from? Remember, we had a man in the highest office in this land that resigned the Presidency due to his actions that came about from a simple burglary in a hotel. Or another President, that was impeached for lying about his relationship with a girl that was near his daughters age.
Or perhaps we should look at Congress. A Representative from Delaware that drove drunk into a barrier in Washington DC a couple of years ago. Or another Representative that was E-mailing Capitol pages with sexual references in those E-mails. He resigned. We could make it more local by talking about the State government. Those that raised our taxes last year twice. Then after the tax increases were in place, they found $360 million dollars, but didn’t return it to the taxpayers. Let’s move more local. The Mayor of Detroit who lied about an affair in court, then after the case is over, it’s discovered he lied, his Chief of Staff lied, and it comes to light from text messages. Now it’s being reported that it’s tied somehow to a stripper that was murdered.
Let’s get even more local. In Lansing, a man was convicted of a murder at the community college in Lansing. He spent nearly a year in prison before another man confessed to the murder. Now it’s being reported that the prosecutor had knowledge of the first mans innocence but didn’t provide that evidence at the time of trial. They got their conviction and the man was wrongly imprisoned which apparently was known as they were trying to convict him. I’d even argue that those actions cost five other women their lives.
How about the judge that was just reported on today as having manipulated evidence in her court in Lansing. We can even use a local example of a policeman that shot himself, then claimed he was shot by a black man, in Grand Ledge. That turned out to not be true.
The argument that government officials won’t abuse the DNA, during the collecting, during the supposed destruction of the DNA, in prosecuting, in judging and in sentencing is being not just a bit naïve, but irresponsible.
We have a presumption of innocence in this country. We should not be opening the doors for arrests for the sake of collecting DNA from citizens just to maintain them in a database. Once someone is convicted of a crime, if they want to put that persons DNA in a database, that would make much more sense. They do have reason to believe that this person would in the future be a possible candidate for another crime.
However, this law is making the assumption that everyone is going to, at some point, commit a crime and this will help them catch them faster. That takes away freedom from the masses for the purpose of catching a few. There are too many avenues in this legislation and the enforcement of it, for mistakes as well as abuse.
In addition to all of the reasons and examples above, this takes health information and gathers it and puts it in the hands of the government. Your privacy with your health will now be infringed on by the State by letting them collect DNA from you. Maybe someday I’ll add to this with talk about the Aryan race and the State of Michigan if this law passes.
This is bad legislation and infringes on the rights of the citizens of this state and smacks of big brother.