Police may take D.N.A. samples from people arrested for serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.
The federal government and 28 states authorize the practice, and law enforcement officials say it is a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes. But the court said the testing was justified by a different reason: to identify the suspect in custody.
When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority,
“taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s D.N.A. is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench, a rare move signaling deep disagreement. He accused the majority of an unsuccessful sleight of hand, one that “taxes the credulity of the credulous.” The point of D.N.A. testing as it is actually practiced, he said, is to solve cold cases, not to identify the suspect in custody.
But the Fourth Amendment forbids searches without reasonable suspicion to gather evidence about an unrelated crime, he said, a point the majority did not dispute.
Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your D.N.A. can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Justice Scalia said from the bench.
The case featured an alignment of justices that scrambled the usual ideological alliances. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Scalia’s dissent.
Justice Scalia has been a strong voice for Fourth Amendment rights this term. In recent months, he joined his three liberal allies from Monday’s decision, along with other justices, to form majorities that limited the use of drug sniffing dogs outside homes and the drawing of blood in drunken driving investigations.
What happened to being innocent until proven guilty. DNA is your genetic code. The state should not be able to demand access to your genetic code. The genetic substances are your proprietary property. It is an unacceptable intrusion to put DNA into a database based on a possibly erroneous or politically motivated arrest. What’s next putting chips in convicted felons. We know that the government is not on our side – why give them an expanded database for their political prosecutions and persecutions?