DNA makes for strange bedfellows

In what has to be a clear-cut instance of hell freezing over, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal and Owen “Boots and Sabers” Robinson actually agree on something, and that something is a proposal to collect DNA samples from every individual arrested in the State of Wisconsin, whether those individuals are actually convicted of a crime or not.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, eager to grab his share of the spotlight and cast his share of the blame over missing samples from the state’s DNA database, has made it clear he supports suspects’ DNA when they’re booked into jail instead of waiting for prison officials to do so after conviction. As Owen Robinson notes over at Boots and Sabers, it is both unconstitutional and unconscionable to take a person’s DNA – the very blueprint of their being – without due process. Capper goes on to add his own spin, noting that the taking of DNA is an intrusive procedure, and what’s more, it leaves the door wide open for abuses of the DNA database.

State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and State Rep. Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake) have already introduced legislation requiring DNA be taken from any individual arrested for any crime, and what’s more, it would also mandate DNA be kept in the state’s DNA database for anyone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, a change from current state law, which mandates DNA samples be kept only for those individuals convicted of felony crimes. What’s more, the legislation introduced by State Rep. Hraychuck and State Sen. Harsdorf would require anyone whose DNA was collected but who was not convicted of a crime to request the Department of Justice expunge the sample from the DNA database.

As the illusory tenant points out, the argument in favor of collecting DNA from anyone arrested for a crime seems to be contradictory:

In conclusion: Because you cannot count on the government to adequately administer a DNA sampling regime against convicted felons, therefore you can trust it to competently regulate and administer the seized biological material of innocent persons.

Personally, I’m in agreement with Owen Robinson and Chris Liebenthal. The mandatory collection of DNA samples from individuals who have not been convicted of any crimes is not only unconstitutional, but downright unconscionable. The proposal to change state law to allow such a practice is a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that could easily be rectified without a change to existing state law.


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5 thoughts on “DNA makes for strange bedfellows

  1. Seems like a no-brainer. I get why Clarke – and law enforcement in general might be in favor of it. It makes their lives easier, and would make it easier for them to catch “bad guys” thus…a safer Wisconsin. Self-interest and a myopic view of society is neither a surprise nor necessarily that bad for them.

    BUT…this is why we don’t let law enforcement create laws, their job is only to enforce them. Anyone in public policy positions who doesn’t see this as a blatant 4th amendment violation…well they’re just not too bright. In this country, we sometimes accept a less than perfect situation because the rights given up are too important. We could do away with the presumption of innocence and do away with jury trials and we’d have more guilty people in prison and be safer.

  2. I am totally opposed to this idea of fishing for DNA to match to unresolved crimes.

    And totally opposed to linking a database sample of innocent people to future crimes because DNA was found at a site.

    1. Agree on the innocent/un-convicted people. I don’t have a problem with “fishing” with the DNA of people convicted of felonies.

      But I do have to ask – if you are against his, then I would assume you are against the various “Innocence” Projects, right? Because it seems like most often, what is freeing the wrongly convicted is conclusively matching the DNA from the crime with that of a felon convicted of another crime.

      1. Convicted felon to convicted felon works for me.
        A detained or an arrested but unconvicted citizen is a different issue in my mind.

  3. Ultimately, while I’m all for any tools that make it easier for law enforcement to catch criminals, my overriding concern here is the potential invasion of privacy and violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    It’s a slippery slope once we start giving law enforcement such broad-reaching authority.

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