The Wisconsin Department of Justice wants to increase the number of DNA samples collected by the various law enforcement agencies through out the state. Currently only convicted felons have their DNA collected. But the expanded program would include those convicted of misdemeanors, those arrested for a felony, and those arrested for misdemeanor sex offenses. According to an article on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website, this would increase costs for Wisconsin by $7.2 million in the next biennial budget…and increase the number of samples collected from the current 12,000 annually to 68,000.
Other than the problem in finding $7.2 additional dollars in the next budget (after all, we’re broke), there is the little inconvenience that Governor Walker and the Republicans in Madison continue to overlook…the US Constitution and the 4th Amendment.
From an earlier article reprinted on the MJS website, originally from the Associated Press:
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin chief Chris Ahmuty tells the State Journal the expansion “turns the presumption of innocence on its head.” Ahmuty says if no charges are filed or there’s an acquittal, it raises concerns about how the DNA sample could be used in the future.
It seems that California has already been down this road…and it isn’t pretty. From an editorial in the New York Times from September 18, 2012:
On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is scheduled to reconsider whether California violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against searches and seizures by requiring police to take DNA samples from people arrested but not yet convicted of felonies. California’s law is ostensibly aimed at accurately identifying those arrested, solving crimes and exonerating the innocent. It is also, unfortunately, unconstitutional.
This is a matter of national import because the federal government and more than half the states have laws allowing DNA sampling before conviction.
The constitutional outcome should be clear. Unless there is a warrant, or suspicion of a different crime that a DNA sample would help solve, taking a sample violates established rights against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The harms to individuals — invasions of their privacy, the risks of false positives in DNA matches — outweigh the modest benefits to law enforcement. Of the 300,000 or so people arrested in California each year for felonies, about a third are never convicted and many are never charged.
Once again our legislature is ready to violate our US Constitution and possibly waste state tax dollars maintaining a database of doubtful usefulness while opening the state up to years of potential litigation for unlawful collection of DNA evidence. Maybe just once we could do the right thing?